After the satisfying stodginess of the pot pie, I wanted something fresh and light. I'd been following and enjoying the fish related posts of a foodie friend, Biren, who does amazing Asian food, and my thoughts were turning to all the briny delights of the sea.

Providence was smiling down on me when I saw these plump, daisy fresh razor clams on a morning jaunt to the market. They were larger than the ones I'd eaten before and looked too tempting to pass by.

My mother, who is not as much a shellfish lover, had a few choice words about the appearance of these clams, which closed up tight, do actually look like the razors of old, used by a breed of barbers that no longer exists, circa "shave and a haircut, 10 cents!" Yeah, that long ago! Opened up though, after cooking, they look like something else altogether, and decorum stops me from saying exactly what they resemble. Good thing you can't hear my mother, who is reading over my shoulder as I type. She is much less shy and I am blushing on her behalf. They are also known as bamboo clams, so called because they are said to resemble sections of bamboo.

Appearance aside, these clams are drop dead delicious. They rival the sweetness of abalone and are in fact much more tender and delectable, in my opinion. Their shells should be open unless prodded, their flesh plump and glistening and they should have a pleasant, sea smell. I prepared them very simply here as I did not want to mask their wonderful sweet yet savoury flavour ; they typify that description defying, rich and intense savour now known as "umami", and rarely require much seasoning.

I hope that you give them a try if you're lucky enough to stumble on them; they are a rare treat these days, though I have many memories of digging them up at the beach when I was a child, and bringing them home to toss into the soup pot, in all their tiny, gritty glory. They looked adorable bobbing up and down in my soup bowl and though too miniscule to really satisfy on their own, they still tasted damn near divine. This, is almost  as good as that beautiful, sandy soup I joyously slurped, so long ago ;)

Prep 15 mins     Cook 15 mins       Serves 4


1 kg large razor clams, rinsed thoroughly and drained
1/2 cup dry white vermouth
5 cm (2 inch) length fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 fresh red chili, seeded and julienned (I used bird's eye chilies for more bite)
1 Tbsp light soy sauce (or to taste)
A generous handful tender watercress sprigs, thoroughly rinsed and drained


Combine vermouth and clams and allow to steep in a large bowl for about 5 minutes. Drain clams (reserving vermouth) and steam over fiercely boiling water for 5 minutes only. Do not overcook, or the they will turn rubbery. Remove from steamer when done. Do not discard clam juices.

Heat about 1 tablespoon light vegetable oil in a wok and when hot, fry the ginger until browned. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, ensuring garlic doesn't burn.

Add chilies, soy sauce, reserved vermouth, clams and clam juices to the wok and stir everything together, keeping the heat high. Once the broth simmers, turn off heat.

Dish out clams and garnish with the sprigs of watercress. I additionally garnished this with some extra crisp fried julienned ginger. Serve with white rice, or over soup noodles.

Drink pairing : We had this with bottles of frigidly cold Heineken and it was glorious! If you prefer wine, try Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, white Vinho Verde or a really dry sherry like Fino.