In the US, there are two main varieties of razor clams: the larger Pacific razor clam, and the smaller and narrower Atlantic version, also known as Atlantic jackknife clam or bamboo clam.
As compared to other clams, razor clams taste brighter, cleaner, sweeter, and meatier. When cooked, their texture becomes nicely crunchy instead of rubbery.
Because of their delicate nature, the best way to prepare them is to take a minimalist approach with brief or no cooking, and use very few ingredients and flavoring. Good examples include crudo, ceviche, a la plancha, and stir-frying.
Razor clams are a favorite ingredient in Chinese cuisine. The most prized variety there is very similar to Atlantic jackknife clam, and, interestingly, is also called bamboo clam (竹蛏). Chinese chefs often prepare them with a cooking technique called Bao (爆), or “explode-frying”. Bao is very similar to Chao (炒), or stir-frying, but requires higher temperature, hotter oil, and quicker stirring and tossing. For delicate seafood and meat that benefit from for quick cooking, such as squid, cuttlefish, clams, tenderloin, and chicken, Bao is an ideal cooking method. The minimum use of seasonings in Bao allows the natural flavors to shine.
While it’s hard to replicate the level of high heat in a home kitchen, we can still apply Bao technique by following the 3 principles: high heat, hot oil, and quick execution.
My recipe below is inspired by explode-fried dishes from Northern China where cilantro or scallion is often used to add a clean and refreshing aroma without overpowering the main ingredient.
Because razor clams live under the sand, they could get gritty. There are two effective ways to clean them:
– Soak them for a few hours in cold salted water to remove the sand, or
– Dip them briefly in boiling water to loosen the shell, and rinse under cold running water.
Explode-fried razor clams with cilantro
Makes 2 servings
12 small Atlantic razor clams, about 18 oz (510 g)
1 bunch cilantro, about 2 oz (60 g). Substitute sliced scallions if preferred.
1 teaspoon ginger juice
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Dip the razor clams in boiling water for 20 seconds, or until the shells are open. Rinse the clams under cold running water. Remove the dark vein and stomach of each clam. Rinse again. Drain well and pat dry.
- Remove the leaves of the cilantro. Trim the stems and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) sections. Reserve some of the leaves for garnish.
- In a small bowl, mix and dissolve the salt with ginger juice and Shaoxing wine.
- Heat the oil in a very hot wok or skillet over high heat. When the oil is very hot and just gives off a wisp of smoke, add the cilantro stems and garlic. Stir-fry for 10 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the razor clams and liquid mixture. Stir and toss rapidly for about 1 minute, until the clams are just cooked.
- Plate and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.
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