27 April 2010

Take a Razor to Your Clam

Out of the blue the other day, I got the urge to snack on some clam. But not just any clam, razor clams. The idea came to me randomly. I thought, "I'd really like some razor clams, topped with a ginger-scallion sauce."

This isn't an entirely original craving. We'd had an amazing razor clam/scallion dish at the in-decline Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater on our London Trip a couple of months before. But for some reason, I suddenly became singularly obsessed with making a David Chang-style ginger-scallion sauce and topping some long bivalves with it.

Alive with pleasure. Squirming, pulsating pleasure.
So we hit the markets in search of a shellfish that is usually used for bait here... Which means it's not easy to find.

We spotted a couple of small bundles of 'em at a fish stand in the Marché du Président Wilson in the posh 16th, but by the time we circled around to get them on our way out (it was a hot day, which doesn't mix with public transit and seafood) they were gone!  Oh well, at least we'd picked up some beautiful, funky heirloom carrot varieties from Joël Thiebault, who has made a career out of raising gorgeous vegetables... and selling their "throwaway" parts to suckers at a premium. (Hey, Joël! Poor people have been eating turnip and beet greens forever!)

Luck turned up at Paris' tertiary Chinatown (in the 3rd arrondissement), where we were able to pick up a massive bundle of Ensis directus for about half the price of what we missed out on in the 16th. Checking 'em out, they were cold, fresh, alive, and – most importantly – plucked from the nearby North Sea, not shipped from halfway around the world as one might suspect in the Asian markets. Score!

Next up: Making a ginger-scallion sauce.

I've heard so many raves about David Chang's sauce as featured in the Momofuku cookbook, which I had picked up back when it came out at our favorite English-language bookstore in town. (Hint: It's not fucking WH Smith or Brentano's. Fuck them with a dusty old hardcover inserted diagonally.)  But I'd never bothered to look at the recipe. In fact, I only got the book because it's good reading, and Alannah and I get giggles out of Chang's fuck-you attitude to the ruling food establishment.

The formula is dead simple: Ginger, scallions, oil, sherry vinegar, soy sauce, salt.

Ginger-Scallion sauce.. the Ramped up version. Har har.
We decided, of course, to mess with the formula, because that's what we do. We replaced half the scallions with some gorgeous red ramps we found during our market adventures. Ramps are a bit more garlicky than scallions, and they also have a bit of an earthy flavor that we dig.  Also, I made a Japanese-pride-fueled executive decision to substitute the sherry vinegar with a mix of rice vinegar and hon-mirin (Japanese cooking wine).  Chop. Mince. Combine for 15 minutes. Done.

The sauce was poured over some cleaned, opened razor clams and placed under a super-hot broiler for just a couple of minutes...

Lap up the juices on these hot, vertical clams
While we were at it, I figured we should have some of the famous ginger-scallion noodles. Which entails all of pouring the same sauce over some hot, cheap ramen-type noodles.

Slurp this
Of course, having so much clam between the two of us, the feast continued for a couple more days. We'd made some deep-fried razor clams to have with our Mexican food, and we went on with our Asian theme to make a simple but gorgeous razor clam stir-fry.

It's as if scallops and lobster mated and put tubular
babies on top of veggies

There was also some more posh-16th-arrondissement market booty to be plundered, so we gently steamed some shimeji mushrooms, laid 'em on top of a bed of shredded steamed chicken... Topped off with more of the ginger-scallion-ramp sauce, of course.

Mmmm... Shroomy
In all, it made for a couple of days of delectable Asian eating, most of which is crazy simple to prepare. The only tough part was having to run around town to procure the various ingredients, but such is the nature of finding (or even making) good ethnic food in Paris.

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