What is Flavor and Fortune?
How do I subscribe?
How do I get past issues?
How do I advertise?
How do I contact the editor?

Read 6917937 times

Connect me to:
Book reviews
Letters to the Editor
Newmans News and Notes
Restaurant reviews

Article Index (all years, slow)
List of Article Years
Article Index (2024)
Article Index (last 2 years)
Things others say
Related Links

Log In...

Categories & Topics

Abalone, Clams, Mussels, and Oysters

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Fish and Seafood

Winter Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(4) pages: 10 to 16

ABALONE, in Chinese, is bao yu. This sea creature breathes through its eight t thirty-eight holes in its shell, uses its foot to climb over rocks and other hard surfaces, and does so slowly. Overall, this sea animal is one-third shell and one-third meat. Abalone eats no meat and is herbivorous, has a single convex shell with a beautiful interior used to make decorative items.

The Chinese adore these mollusks more when dried than fresh, but they like them both ways, if they can afford them. Size makes a huge difference, price-wise; they really are a lot more expensive when big though expensive either big or small.

Found in tidal zones at about fifteen feet or deeper, when one tries to get them off a hard surface, it is a tough task. It is easier if done very quickly.

These are single-shell creatures whose inside shells can be green, pink, black, or red. They are loved as food, also as fancies. The color of their interior shell is commonly green, but other colors do exist. Their tough white meat has a distinctive flavor; it needs pounding and pounding, only the young are eaten raw.

Also known as dormer or ear shells, these members of the Haliotidae family and there are many different varieties. Haliotis tuberculalta and from the Pacific and are often larger that their Atlantic cousins. Both need to be cut out of the shell, scrubbed and pounded well, or cooked for a while, then prepared in a recipe. Some folk simmer them for a couple of hours with minced garlic, a shallot or two, toasted bread crumbs, and parsley until tender, others use a mallet and beat them until soft. Still others do both. Many slice then pound them until tender, then they place the slices in a wok or fry pan and finish them off in lard, butter, or another solid fat.

The Portuguese call them Pulvo, the Spanish say Pulpo, and nowadays Asians are beginning to use these terms. They Chinese and others who eat abalone, cut the muscle known as its foot, before use. There are those that also use its head, but before doing so, they turn it inside out.

CLAMS, the Chinese call ge li have a large set of admirers. There are many different kinds including steamers, geoduck, razor clams, etc. We did get many gripes about the sea creature article, mostly because there was only one recipe for clams, yet a book about animals that swim, that article was not.

This article is limited to four sea creatures that live in their shells, three are bivalves, the first has but one shell. Those with hinges and two shells have stronger hinges than the others. All clams have considerable appeal to the Chinese, other Asians, and others, worldwide. There are many kinds of clams and in this article we only mention the more popular ones. They and all recipes are after the text.
We found no early monographs nor any early articles about clams. We did locate one valuable book by an American but not published until 1983. A recipe in its very last chapter, called the ‘Bonus Chapter’ was for a very popular Chinese dish, Clams with Black Bean Sauce.

Most clams live in the sand of wave-pounded beaches. Some prefer gravel-hard rock-studded tidal pools, and some bury themselves in muddy bays and inlets. Those that do the latter use their siphons as if they were snorkels sucking in air and food, sometimes sucking in water, too. Then they send out things not ingested or used in other ways, thus removing anything of nutritional value.

Several clams are visible at low tide, a good time to gather them. Others are below the surface so raking them is the best way to gather them. There are some clams that are more selective than others; they are found only in specific places. Other clams are not selective at all, can be found in many places.

A well known Chinese landscape painter who lived near Suzhou wrote a book with fifty recipes calling it The Food System of the Yulin House. He reported clams excellent raw and he suggests saving their juices in a bowl then mixing this liquid with shredded scallions, peppercorns, and wine, and using this liquid as is or cooking it with the shredded clam muscles heated in very hot wine. We have never shredded clams, have you?

Painter Ni said to wash them. we say to scrub their shells, then open them and cut the clam away from the shell, and rinse them before shredding or eating them. Or one can bake them in a very hot oven for five minutes and they will open themselves; but if they do not, discarded them as it is dangerous to eat unopened clams as they can be toxic. Do rinse all clams with warm water to get rid of any sand before eating them. The Chinese have many recipes for all kinds of clams, raw or cooked.

Yan Kit So in her Classic Food of China (Macmillan London Limited 1992), says that any gastronome in the ‘Land of Fish and Rice’ where she lived, adores clams and eats them often. She has many recipes for them, some from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE); all are delicious. We recommend consulting her cookbook and many others for fine clam recipes.

Before doing so, check if you are using chowder clams, razor clams with their very thin sharp fragile shells, sea clams, pizmos clams, donax clams that come in shells of many colors, quahogs with their heart-shaped shells, cockles which are recognizable by their deep ridged shells, rock clams which are known as littlenecks where I come from, soft-shell clams whose shells remain soft only in some seasons, huge geoducks which some refer to as horse clams because their huge siphons hang outside and do not fit into their shells. There are many other kinds of clams, some better cooked, some not. It is best if the recipe you use is meant for the kind of clam you plan to prepare; but that is not always necessary.

MUSSELS are yi bei in Chinese; they are in the family Mytilidae and have beard-like strings that attach to rocks and to other mussels. These are called their byssal threads. Mussel shells are longer than wide and are often dark blue, brown, or black with a silver interior or lining. Those in fresh water can make pearls and are classed as Palaeheterodonta; those in salt water do not make pearls and are called Pteriomorphia. Even those in fresh water do not make many pearls.

Mussels have a large organ called its foot, this is hatchet-shaped, and used to pull them along on sand or gravel. They are filter-feeders that eat plankton, and clump together if not attached to a rock or another hard surface. Some are males, others females; and the males fertilize the females outside their bodies and enter them through a siphon.

China, one chef told us, uses forty percent of the world’s mussel catch, Spain is the industry leader, and they use even more and have for centuries. Now, in North America, four-fifths of all cultivated mussels are produced on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Fresh-water mussels are hosts for cultivating fresh-water pearls, and many of these marine animals now grow on rafts or ropes where they live full-time.

Mussels are boiled, steamed, fried, smoked, roasted, batter-fried, deep-fried, or barbecued, and rarely eaten raw. Do not to eat any if they do not open after you cook them because they may be dead and with toxins. These bivalves are excellent nutrient sources; four ounces can have 85 calories, 15 grams of protein, 2 grams of total fat, half a gram of saturated fat, and three hundred and twenty-five micrograms of sodium.

Most popular steamed, mussels are loved hot or warm, plain or with any kind of sauce, also batter-fried, in omelets, stir-fried with black beans, prepared with doufu, and in many other ways. Cookbooks have few recipes, and even fewer have recipes for the green-tipped mussels, most from New Zealand. These are usually bigger, meatier, more succulent, and most often consumed cold after they were steamed. Recipes for clam and oysters can, most often be used when preparing mussels.

SNAILS and conch and their relatives such as salamanders are also used interchangeably in recipes. Chinese chefs seems to do so often, at least the half dozen we spoke to reported they did.

In Chinese, conch is called hai luo, snails are known as wo niu, won lu, also ni niu. They single-shell items are gastropods in the genus Strombus. All are herbivorous, and the Chinese, like the Romans did, cultivate and fatten them on wine and grain.

Snails are adored by the Chinese and the French, the conch even more loved. Incidentally, conch is pronounced ‘konk’ and can be eaten raw while snails rarely are. When snails have no shells they are called slugs, and we know of no one who eats these land animals.

Chinese wash their snails and conch in salt water before cooking and eating them, some wash them in vinegar water. For those who have trouble getting snails out of their shells, we recommend sanding off the pointed end then using a tooth pick or another pointed item and removing the bony item from their other end and pulling out the meaty part.

Ni Zan (1301 - 11374), a famous landscape painter, touted snails saying they were the “Food System of the Yulin House.” He was from Wu Xi near Suzhou, and believed snail juice should be highly praised and highly prized. What he meant was snail soup or snail juice or any liquid snails were cooked in was very special, very healthy, too.

Conch is the common name given to sea snails. These marine gastropods are in the family Strombus. They can be eaten raw or cooked as all parts of their meat are edible either way. The Chinese prefer them steamed or stir-fried alone or with various vegetables and other foods of the sea, they particularly like them with clams.

Some molluscs do produce pearls; they are light in color, white or pink most often. Their shells are used for decoration, whole or in part, but the Chinese would rather eat them than look at them. Buddhists believe the conch shell is one of their eight auspicious symbols. Why? Because they believe they drive away evil spirits. They also love them because they live for twenty-five or more years. They are pleased to pound and marinate them; both actions tenderize konk.

Oysters which are hao in Chinese, are members of the Phyllum mollusca. They live in brackish water in bays, coves, and estuaries, and most are aphrodisiacs spawning when the water temperature exceeds sixty degrees F.

When they spawn, virtually all will spawn the very same day, and it takes eighteen months to five years for an oyster to grow to maturity. When purchased in their shells, these should be tightly closed or close quickly when handled. If they do not, they are probably dead and should be discarded. Live ones should be refrigerated until ready to cook or be opened and eaten.

OYSTERS called extra-select are the largest oysters, those called select are medium-size; the smallest ones have no special name but are best eaten as cocktails or after frying them. The Chinese call them hao. Shucked oysters can be kept refrigerated up to ten days; and all sizes can be eaten raw, baked, barbecued, fried, simmered, smoked, and in most other ways.

People are fascinated that almost all of these marine animals are born male and change to be females during the first year of their lives. Scientists say the salinity of the water or its temperature may be why, or the amount of plankton in their diet, but not everyone seems to know or agree as to why. Changing their sex may be a mystery but their mating season is not, nor is how prolific their eggs and sperm are. Males release billions of sperm during the mating season, females release millions of eggs but only when they sense sperm are nearby.

When oysters mate, the water around them turns milky, their eggs become fertilized, and their larvae find something to attach to. Then they rest and grow and remain quite sedentary. When resting, many are eaten by predators such as starfish, rays, crabs, and people.

Oysters are ancient marine animals; a British oyster expert named J.R. Philpots said that oyster beds existed in China before early Roman oyster beds were found and touted. He also said that both the Chinese and the Romans experimented with ways to grow oysters many years before the birth of Christ. He did not live to see nor learn that the Japanese seed oysters in the Pacific Ocean, nor that most Atlantic waters are too cold for oysters and a fluke of nature changed that because oysters were adaptable and many even grow to more than six inches across.

The pearl-producing oysters are not true oysters. They are Meleagrina margaritifera and the phosphorus, iron, copper, and iodine in their diets may be why they are so big and efficient when mating and making other oysters. There are folk who say the high amount of vitamin D increases mating desire and leads to the production of so many eggs, sperm, and oysters; but no one is sure if this is so, and experts do see that the sexually active ones make many oysters.

People need to know not to eat any oyster or shell fish if it is not alive nor open after it is cooked; they might be toxic. They do not put oysters in their shells in deep water because they will not live long there. Do refrigerate, but never freeze oysters; and when cooking them, be careful not to over-cook them. One or two minutes at most is a good amount of time.
Abalone Soup
1/2 pound can of abalone
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 Teaspoons thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
1 ten-ounce cans condensed chicken broth
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
salt and ground white pepper, to taste
1 scallion, angle slices in thin slivers
1. Cut the abalone into very thin strips, mix with the cornstarch, soy sauce, and the rice wine.
2. In a three or four quart pot, bring this mixture to the boil with two cans of cold water, the cucumber, salt and pepper, and the scallion slivers. Reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes, then serve.
Abalone and Duck Feet
1 can abalone, sliced or half-pound fresh abalone simmered until tender
12 duck webs, boner, then steamed until soft
½ can bamboo, cut into sticks
1 cup chicken broth
3 whole star anise
3 slices fresh ginger, smashed, then minced
2 scallions, one minced, one tied in a knot
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
½ cooked carrot, sliced into rounds, and cooked until almost soft
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1. Rinse the tenderized abalone and the duck webs.
2. Put the bamboo pieces into a clay pot, put the abalone slices and the duck webs on top of them, then add the broth, star anise, ginger, minced scallion, and the rice wine, then simmer for half an hour.
3. Add the carrot, then sprinkle the sesame oil around, and serve.
Abalone in Sesame Sauce
5 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, then divided into two batches
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 can abalone, but into very thin matchstick pieces
1. Put half the toasted sesame seeds into a blender with the oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, and the pepper. Blend for half a minute.
2. Mix the abalone matchstick pieces with the sesame sauce mixture, and set aside for half an hour.
3. Drain the abalone mixture, then put it in a serving bowl, and sprinkle the rest of the toasted sesame seeds on top. Serve.
Stewed Abalone and Greens I
1/2 pound dried abalone
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 dried tangerine peel, soaked then slivered
2 slices fresh ginger, smashed and then slivered
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
6 large lettuce leaves or bok cai leaves, sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Soak the dried abalone overnight, then drain and put it in a large clay pot, cover with water, and boil for twenty minutes. Then turn off the heat source, cover the pot, and let it sit over night.
2. In the morning, take the abalone out of the clay pot, rinse, and if the water is sandy, strain it through a very fine wire mesh strainer, slice it, then return it to the pot.
3. Add the stock, peel, ginger, and the wine, and boil until the sauce thickens. Then add the greens, stir for one minute, ten remove them to a platter. Put the abalone slices on top, and the reduced sauce on top of that, Then serve.
Abalone in Oyster Sauce
1 pound abalone, canned or fresh, simmered and made tender
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons lard
3 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
4 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked until soft, stems discarded, caps sliced thick
1 pound bok cai
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Cut the abalone in half-inch wide thin slices and marinate them in the soy sauce, wine, and cornstarch for one hour.
2, Heat a wok or fry pan, then add the garlic ad the mushrooms and stir-fry for one minute, then add the bok cai and stir-fry fr two minutes, then turn the heat to high and stir-fry another minute until the sauce thickens and starts to evaporate. Then serve.
Clams in Rice Wine
1 Tablespoon Vegetable oil
6 shallots, peeled, each cut in half
1 fresh hot chili pepper, seeded and cut in thin strips
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thin sliced
2 pounds fresh clams, scrubbed
1/2 cup Shao Xing wine
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed well, one sprig saved for garnish, others minced
1. Heat wok or fry pan, add oil, then the shallots, chili pepper pieces, and garlic, and stir-fry for one minute.
2. Add the clams and cover the pan for four minutes, stirring two or three times during this time. Then remove cover and discard any clams that did not open. Stir in the wine and the minced cilantro. Then serve.
Clams and Fish
2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound fresh clams, scrubbed
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled and smashed ½ teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 green pepper, seeded and slivered
1 pound skinless and boneless white fish, cut into one-inch pieces
1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, clams, and ginger, and stir-fry or one minute.
2. Next add the stock, salt, sugar, and green pepper pieces and bring to the boil.
3. Now add the pieces of fish and stir gently. Cover and simmer for two minutes. Discard any unopened clams, then put into a pre-heated bowl, and serve.
Clams in Black Bean Sauce
½ pound dry wheat noodles, cooked just until they are tender
2 Tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons Shao Xing wine
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons fermented black beans, mashed
½ red pepper, seeded and diced
1 dried hot red pepper, seeded and diced
3 pounds small clams, scrubbed
2 cups bok cai
1. Heat wok or a large fry pan, add the noodles and half the sesame oil, and stir well for one minute, then transfer this to a pre-heated bowl.
2. Mix broth, wine, soy and oyster sauces, and set this aside.
3. Heat the rest of the sesame and vegetable oils, add the garlic and black bean sauce, and the hot peppers. Stir-fry for one minute, then add red peppers, stir-fry until the clams open, about three minutes. Discard any that do not open. Add clam mixture to the serving bowl.
4. Add the bok cai to the wok and stir for one or two minutes, then pour this over the clam mixture. Serve.
Clams, Fuzhou-Style
2 pounds fresh clams, scrubbed
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
6 slices ginger, peeled and slivered
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 teaspoon fermented black beans, mashed
1 scallion, sliced at an angle
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with a like amount of cold water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil and the clams, and stir, then add the garlic, ginger, chili paste, and the black beans and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Next, add the scallion and the cornstarch mixture and stir-fry for two more minutes. Discard any clams that do not open, then all the sesame oil, stir two or three times, then transfer to a pre-heated bowl, and serve.
Broiled Clams
1/2 cup thin soy sauce
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
2 Tablespoons white miso paste 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
30 whole clams, their shells well-scrubbed
30 wooden skewers soaked in warm water for half an hour
1. Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, miso paste, and the sugar and bring to the boil for half a minute, then allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Add the clams and marinate for one hour. (One can take the clams out of their shells before or after marinating; and reserve the mariade.)
3 Skewer the clams, six to a skewer, then broil for two minutes, eight inches from the heat source, basting them with the marinade once or twice on each side, the serve immediately.
Mussel Omelets
12 mussels removed from their shells, rinsed of any sand
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten until light
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
1 scallion, the green part only, and angle sliced
1. Drain mussels after rinsing them, dry them on paper towels.
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil, and stir-fry the mussels for one minute before adding the beaten eggs. Do not stir them.
3. Add salt, is using it, and the scallion, and as soon as the eggs look like they are beginning to set, turn them over. Serve on a pre-heater serving plate after they are turned over again.
Mussels and Doufu
12 mussels, scrubbed of any sand, removed from their shells, then dried with paper towels, and minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and smashed
4 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems discarded
1 Chinese sausage, simmered for ten minutes, then removed from its casing and discard it, and mince the meat and dry-fry it for two minutes
3 Tablespoons ground pork
1 firm doufu, mashed
1 scallion, angle sliced
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
4 cilantro sprigs, one left whole for garnish, the others minced
1. Blanch the mussels in boiling water and remove after one minute, then dry them with paper towels.
2. Mix garlic, mussels, sausage, black mushrooms, pork, doufu, sugar, salt, and the scallion and stir-fry for two minutes. Then put this mixture in a pre-heated bowl, sprinkle with the minced cilantro, and top with the sprig of cilantro, then serve.
Mussels and Fermented Black Beans
1 pound green-lipped mussels
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 scallions, angle sliced
½ cup chicken stock
1. Discard any beards on the mussels, scrub the shells, and set them in warm water for five minutes so that they can disgorge any sand.
2. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, then the mussels and stir-fry them for two minutes. Next stir in the scallions and the stock, boil for one minute, then serve.
Fried Oysters
8 oysters removed from their shell, the shells discarded
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole, almond, or evaporated milk
1 chili pepper, seeded and slivered
2 Tablespoons spicy pickles, diced finely
2 Tablespoons pomegranate seeds, lemon slices or juice, all optional
1. Heat the oil to medium or a bit beyond, then mix flour, oysters milk, the chili pepper and pickle pieces, add pomegranate seeds or juice if using them.
2. Coat oysters and fry them for two or three minutes.
3. Drain on paper towels, and serve with lemon juice or other optional ingredients, as desired.
Batter-fried Oysters
½ cup milk or buttermilk
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of Siracha chili sauce
½ cup cornmeal
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup all purpose flour
24 shucked oysters
1 cup vegetable oil
1. Mix milk, paprika garlic powder, chili sauce, cornmeal, flour, and the salt and pepper and coat the oysters with this thick paste. Drain and discard or save any excess for another purpose
. 2. Heat oil to medium hot, add the oysters and fry just until they are golden, then drain and rest them on paper towels.
3. Put the drained oysters in a re-heated bowl, and serve.
Scrambled Eggs and Oysters
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten well
2 tomatoes, diced in one-half- to one-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon coarse salt
6 shucked oysters, each cut in half
1. Heat large fry pan, and add the oil, then reduce the heat to medium.
2. Mix eggs, tomatoes, tomato paste, fish sauce, sugar, and salt, then add the oysters and fry just until the eggs solidify, then stir gently, and turn this mixture over. Fry second side for one minute.
3. Serve on pre-heated plates.
Oysters and Salmon Roe
1 pound green-lipped mussels with out the shells
1 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 scallions, angle-sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1. Discard any bears on the mussels, rinse them well, and set them in warm water for five minutes so they disgorge any sand.
2. Heat a wok or fry pan, then add the oil, and stir-fry the mussels for two minutes, then add the scallions and the stock, and boil for one minute. Then serve.
Oysters and Crabs in Red Oil
2 small crabs, claw meat only, removed from their shells
2 Tablespoons rice wine
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 scallion, green part only, minced
1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and minced
10 shucked oysters, each cut in half
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon red hot oil
1. Steam the crab legs until tender, about five minutes, then remove them from their shells and coarsely dice them.
2. Mix rice wine, cornstarch, scallion pieces, garlic and oyster halves and set aside.
3. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the oil, and then add the oyster mixture and stir-fry for one minute before adding crab meat and red oil. Stir fry for two minutes, then serve on a pre-heated platter.

Flavor and Fortune is a magazine of:

Copyright © 1994-2024 by ISACC, all rights reserved
3 Jefferson Ferry Drive
S. Setauket NY 11720