Clams and Pork may sound like an unlikely pairing to some but it is actually a pretty popular combination in the cuisines of both China and Portugal. However, though the Chinese generally use ground pork, as I do here, the Portuguese tend to favor larger chunks of the meat. Basil may seem like an odd addition for a Chinese preparation but in fact Basil is quite well known in that nation, most notably by the Hakka people, who sometimes use it in very large quantities in a single dish. Beyond that though, I have also used soy and rice wine among the flavorings here so, ethnically speaking, we have pretty much taken a left turn at Portugal and headed straight on to China…
By the way, instead of waiting until my usual verdict in the end-notes, I am going to come out and tell you right away that this preparation is absolutely scrumptious…
- 1lb small Clams (I am using frozen, but fresh are fine);
- ¼ lb. ground Pork;
- 1 small bunch Basil;
- 1 tbsp. coarsely chopped Garlic;
- 1 tsp. coarsely ground Black Pepper;
- ½ tsp. Sugar;
- 1 tbsp. Soy Sauce;
- 2 tbsp. Rice Wine;
- ¼ cup Clam liquor (or water).
Heat a little oil in a pan over moderately high heat and saute the pork until cooked through, then drain off the excess fat leaving no more than a tablespoon or so.
Stir in the sugar, soy, black pepper and garlic and cook just until the garlic is soft. Now add the clams and the clam liquor (or water) and let steam until the clams are heated through (and properly cooked until the shells open if you are using fresh).
Finally, add the rice wine and the Basil leaves (leave the small ones whole and just tear large ones in half), and cook, stirring very gently just until the leaves have wilted. Serve immediately.
I put this preparation together as an appetizer dish but you could easily make it in a larger amount and serve it in a single platter as one of several main dishes. Guests can spoon some of the clams and meat over rice and allow the juice to soak in. Personally, though, I think this is much better eaten alone, using the shells as little ‘spoons’ to scoop up the sweet juices along with the meat. It’s a little fiddly and messy but awfully darned good. I must try this recipe with mussels!