Clams and Pork with Basil

Clams and Pork with Basil
Clams and Pork with Basil

Clams and Pork with Basil

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. Likewise, 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. Here, in this recipe, 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…

The Basic Method

Cooking the Pork
Cooking the Pork

In Portuguese dishes containing both Clams and Pork, you tend to find the pork is cooked in bite sized chunks, whereas in Chinese or other Asian recipes, you will quite commonly find ground pork being used.

Here, I have been very generous with the amount of pork I have added. Indeed, it is probably twice the amount, proportion-wise, you will find in many other versions. Feel free to vary the proportion, if you like, but the recipe here makes for a very hearty little dish.

Don’t over brown the meat during this first stage of cooking. Just cook it so no pink remains and then drain off all but a tablespoon or so of the fat.

Cooking the Clams with the Pork.
Cooking the Clams with the Pork.

You can use either fresh or frozen, cooked clams here (I used frozen ones on this occasion). If frozen clams are used, you just need to cook them long enough to make sure they are heated through (which will take very little time if they are fully thawed).

If you are using fresh clams, you will obviously need to go through the usual cleaning procedure, making sure that the shells actually contain clams and not sand. The cooking time will need to be adjusted a little and you need to cook until the shells open, discarding any that do not).

In either event, you are well-advised to choose small, hard clams. The ones I am using here are a Vietnamese variety called ‘White Clams’. Cherrystones, or Littlenecks will work nicely too.

Finishing the Dish.
Finishing the Dish.

The Basil is added last. Small leaves can be added whole, but it is best if you tear very large leaves into smaller pieces. Once added, it will take less than a minute until the leaves are wilted and that is the signal for you to remove the pan from the heat and plate for immediate service.

Oh … I forgot to do it here, but you may wish to reserve a few sprigs of Basil to garnish each serving.

Your Recipe Card:

Clams and Pork with Basil

Clams and Pork with Basil may sound like an odd combination to many folks, but the dish, enhanced with Garlic and Rice Wine makes a terrific appetizer.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Clams, Garlic, Pork, Rice Wine
Author: John Thompson


  • 1 lb small Clams
  • ¼ lb. ground Pork;
  • 1 small bunch Basil with large leaves torn in half;
  • 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 the sugar, soy, black pepper and garlic into the fat remaining in the pan and cook just until the garlic is soft.
  • Add the clams and the clam liquor (or water) and let steam until the clams are heated through (or properly cooked until the shells open if you are using fresh rather than frozen).
  • Add the rice wine and the Basil leaves and cook, stirring very gently, just until the leaves have wilted. Serve immediately.


Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!