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Clams with Basil


Hest88
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A few months ago we went to a Shanghai-nese restaurant and had a staggeringly good dish of clams stir-fried with basil. It had a brown sauce as well (oyster sauce?), but was otherwise your typical, very simple clam dish. I've Googled for similar recipes, but haven't found one easily. (I just may be using the wrong search terms.) I know it's rather a common dish, but since I'm used to Cantonese-style clams with black bean sauce, it's rather new to me. Any recipes you'd care to share?

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CLAMS OR MUSSELS WITH BASIL

While I haven’t measured out the proportions, if you read these instructions carefully I’m confident they will produce an excellent result. By the way I love using basil in my Asian cooking, especially right now when it is plentiful and fragrant. In fact I just used handfuls in a Hunan-style chicken stir-fry. Also try leaving out the soy, oyster sauce and the thickening: you’ll end up with a delicious brothy casserole style dish.

Make the sauce base: Heat 1T of vegetable oil in a wok and add 1t minced garlic, 1t sliced ginger, some sliced fresh chile (more or less to taste – none is fine too), and a couple of chopped scallions. Cook, stirring for ten seconds then add a cup of chicken stock. Quickly bring it to a boil then add 2 T dry sherry or shaoshing rice wine, 1-2T oyster sauce, 2-3T soy, 2t sugar, a touch of salt, 1/2t white pepper and if you use it, 1/2t MSG. Taste for seasoning: the sauce should have a nice brown color and be flavorful without being too salty (when you add the clams their juice will dilute the sauce slightly and add more salt at the same time).

Cook the clams: Add 1 1/2- 2 dozen well scrubbed clams (mussels work well too) to the sauce base, and cook until the clams start to open (clams may take 3 or 4 minutes, mussels much less). Using a slotted spoon, remove the clams just as soon as they open (so they don’t toughen) and hold them on the side as you finish the sauce.

Thicken & finish the sauce: Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning, checking for depth of flavor, salt, sugar (which will give the sauce a rounded taste), spiciness and rich brown color. Reduce it if necessary, then when it tastes right, add a big handful of basil leaves and some coarsely chopped fresh cilantro. Working quickly, thicken the sauce with cornstarch slurry, and then recheck the seasoning. Return the clams and any of their accumulated juices to the sauce, and heat through for just a few seconds. Serve immediately.

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I've always had clams with basil in a SE Asian context, it's very similiar to what Eddie has describe except that you don't thicken the sauce and you use tons of garlic instead of ginger. If you enjoy your first try, you might enjoy experimenting with using "Thai" basil or holy basil.

regards,

trillium

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Is this a Shanghainese dish or a SEA dish?

No idea. As I said, I'm more familiar with Cantonese cuisine. This was definitely a Shanghainese restaurant, though, in an Asian complex meant to cater to Chinese expats. It was not upscale and it had no pretensions toward any type of Asian fusion, so I doubt it was at all meant to be SEA.

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The fact of the matter is that these days regional Chinese cuisines are often mixed together sometimes blurring their individual identities.

To the best of my knowledge basil is not tradionally used in the Chinese kitchen. However it sure can taste good! I use it frequently in my cooking.

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  • 1 month later...

I was curious about basil in Chinese cooking. Being rather a traditionalist, I have never experimented with it. However I wanted to know a little more about it, and Frederick Simoons, in his book "Food in China", mentions that basil was introduced to China from India in the 6th century. He describes its use as a flavoring, " though it is seldom mentioned in Chinese cookbooks.

He also mentions that it provides perfume, and is sown in garden to mask the bad odor of fertilizer.

So -- it is not unknown there, it simply is, or hasn't been used traditionally.

But, it seems that more and more chefs are bringing out new dishes. Good for them!

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There is a herb that we use in clam, mussel, or other seafood dishes. That herb is very much like basil in shape; the aroma is slightly different. It's called "doo soo" (Cantonese phonetics). The leaves are variegated maroon and green, not shiny like traditional basil. You can find it in Chinese greengrocers, or try to find seeds. Be careful when growing it in the garden though, because once it takes, it really takes over and proliferates. My female elders used to have it planted as houseplants in pots. No clam dish is really "complete" without it. :smile:

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There is a herb that we use in clam, mussel, or other seafood dishes. That herb is very much like basil in shape; the aroma is slightly different. It's called "doo soo" (Cantonese phonetics). The leaves are variegated maroon and green, not shiny like traditional basil. You can find it in Chinese greengrocers, or try to find seeds. Be careful when growing it in the garden though, because once it takes, it really takes over and proliferates. My female elders used to have it planted as houseplants in pots. No clam dish is really "complete" without it.  :smile:

Is it more savory and aromatic than Chinese spinach/amaranth? (?een cai/xian cai?) One of the spinach varieties came immediately to mind, because of the red/green color.

Or am I way off?

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jo-mel, Way off :smile: It's a herb and used sparingly as a herb, never as a veggie. But you bring forth a mouthwatering reminisce of amaranth; tender, earthy, satisfying. Truly a south Chinese "soul food", especially flash wokked with shrimp sauce(haam ha) and slivers of ginger.

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Shiewie, the literal translation could be "purple beard" ,"purple lion", "left beard", or "left lion". To my eternal regret, and shame, I don't read or write Chinese. The plant is generally a bit smaller than Thai or Italian basil and is not generally as bushy. Leaves are ovate and about the same size as basil leaves. They are green around the outer perimeter and are purple/maroon in the centre. Leaves are not shiny, smooth as basil, but are "dryish" to the touch.

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Ben - does this "doo soo" (haven't figured out the Cantonese intonation of it yet) look like Thai basil?

I see, on another link for basil, some Chinese transliterations. One is "tyu ssu". I'm not familiar with Cantonese, but do the 't' and 'd' cross over as some of the transliterations in Mandarin?

'tyu - dyu -doo / ssu-soo?

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I am from Taishan,"Home of the Overseas Chinese". That implies loads, as for about 5 generations before me there were people who emigrated to all over the world. I know of people with relatives in Trinidad, Mexico, Africa, India,and of course Southeast Asia. Perhaps there was a "cross pollination" there, who knows?

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  • 7 months later...

After much searching I have finally found the species name for the herb I was trying to describe. It is : perilla frutescens, P. crispa. The picture and description can be see at www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/crops/facts98-033.htm

I work slow but sure :rolleyes::biggrin:

Edited by Ben Hong (log)
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After much searching I have finally found the species name for the herb I was trying to describe. It is : perilla frutescens, P. crispa. The picture and description can be see at  www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/ctops/facts98-033.htm

I work slow but sure :rolleyes:  :biggrin:

Well, maybe you'll slowly but surely learn how to post a link that works.

perilla frutescens

:laugh:

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LOL! Thanks Ben and Gary. I still don't recognize it. I guess it's not something my mom ever used!

It's known more in Japanese and Korean food, it gets called shiso, or sometimes sesame leaves. It's periodically in Vietnamese grocery stores too. There's the purple variety and a green variety. The green variety is spicier. You can make a really nice kimchi with it.

regards,

trillium

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  • 4 weeks later...
CLAMS OR MUSSELS WITH BASIL

.....

Cook the clams: Add 1 1/2- 2 dozen well scrubbed clams (mussels work well too) to the sauce base, and cook until the clams start to open (clams may take 3 or 4 minutes, mussels much less). Using a slotted spoon, remove the clams just as soon as they open (so they don’t toughen) and hold them on the side as you finish the sauce.

When cooking clam dishes, why cook the raw clams directly in the sauce? I saw Ming Tsai (East meets West) did the same thing in his show cooking clams with black been sauce.

Like many restaurant chefs, when I cook raw clams I always preboil them in water first. It serves a couple of purposes: (1) The chalky taste that typically comes with any shellfish (clams, mussels, etc.) would be drained with the preboiled water. (2) Often times you may find "bad" clams, which are empty clam shells holding mud inside. If you don't preboil the clams and pick out the bad ones and cook them directly in your sauce from raw, you risk getting dirty mud directly into your sauce and ruin all your work.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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