Monday, March 08, 2010

Sautéed Minced Clams and Leeks

Although nothing beats buying seafood live, sometimes I succumb to the temptation of frozen seafood, given the convenience.

In the case of clams, I don't have to make sure to keep them properly cared for and still alive by the time I get around to cooking them. Then there's the matter of grit: sometimes, the clams would cough up grains of sand with their dying breath.

Is it just me or does everyone have to get mentally prepared when dealing with clams?

For those days when I can't get my head around more work during dinner prep, I happily chanced about these frozen clams. Even better, they were on sale! I kept them in the freezer until we were all ready to cook.

Given that they're not live-from-the-tank-clams, I figure we'd choose a recipe that would minimize our risk.

The Inspiration: Pei Mei

Pei Mei's Minced Leek with Clam Meat

TS found this interesting recipe from one of the Pei Mei cookbooks we managed to snag from Taipei. The English translation of the title, however, seems off.

I wonder if "Minced Clam Meat with Leek" or "Minced Clam Meat and Leek" would be more appropriate?

about Fu Pei Mei

Pei Mei cookbooks

Our Version

I think we must include a little disclaimer here. What I came up with is only vaguely similar to the dish in the cookbook. Why?

We didn't actually have all of the items on hand, so I made substitutions. But, wait, there's more to it than that.

clockwise from top left: leeks, water chestnuts, Serrano ham, button mushrooms

Well, we actually had clam meat, woohoo.

The recipe called for dried black mushrooms (we call them "Chinese mushrooms" here at home), and while we probably had them in the house, I didn't want to go rummaging for them, let alone wait for them to rehydrate in water. Because we had button mushrooms in the fridge, I used those.

Next, the ground pork. We didn't have any either, but rather, had some Serrano ham leftover from our New Year's Eve Spanish menu, so I used the ham.

The cookbook dish also called for chopping up you tiao (Chinese doughnut) -- mmm -- and adding that into the mix. Of course, we didn't have you tiao lying around, so I omitted that.

The Cookbook Called for No Leeks!!!

Last, but certainly not the least, if you look closely at the cookbook photograph, you'll notice that the dish doesn't actually contain leeks.

I used leeks as we had some in the fridge, but the recipe actually calls for garlic scapes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe garlic scapes are usually translated into English as "leek", or sometimes as "garlic sprout" or "leek bud".

Yes, confusing, isn't it?

Someone who reads Chinese should tell us if the "leek" in the recipe is indeed garlic scape.

To the Cooking!

Now that we have that all sorted out, let's cook.

I heated some oil in the wok and added the Serrano ham and leeks. I cooked until the leeks had softened a touch. I added the water chestnuts and the mushrooms next, then the seasonings: Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, salt, sugar and pepper. I cooked the mixture until the mushrooms and leeks were tender.

I added the chopped clams last and used just the tiniest bit of cornstarch slurry (cornstarch dissolved in cold water) to thicken the liquid in the wok.

This dish smelled spectacular while cooking. Just the natural fragrance of the clams, leeks, mushrooms and ham was intoxicating.

There you go, my finished ersatz dish!

Since we usually never serve clam off the shell, some of our family members looked at the dish a bit askance, not knowing what this "mince" was. When assured that the mince was indeed made with clams, leeks, and ham, they dug in with gusto.

This was delicious! The clams were not bad at all, their frozen nature notwithstanding. The brininess of the clams paired perfectly with the sweetness of the leeks. The water chestnuts lent good crunch.

I almost couldn't believe that such a simple dish, with only the smallest amount of soy sauce and Shaoxing wine as "seasoning", could have resulted in such a huge flavor.

This dish was fantastic. I couldn't help downing a whole lot of white rice with this "mince." That lettuce wrap was just for show, by the way, for the blog. ;)

The original recipe called for the addition of pieces of Chinese donuts and I can only imagine how spectacular this dish would have been had we had them.

Some more "tastes" of Formosa
Taiwanese Stewed Eggs (滷蛋) with Stewed Minced Pork (魯肉 or 肉燥)
Taiwanese Stewed Minced Pork Noodles (魯肉麵; 肉燥麵) with Stewed Eggs and Pickled Mustard Greens
Sautéed Minced Clams and Leek
Gua Bao 刮包 ("Taiwanese Burger", or Pork Belly Buns)

Taiwan trip 2009
Taiwanese Bakery Goods (including ChiaTe Bakery)
Dan Shui 淡水, Taiwan (including food)
Taipei Quick Eats: Mos Burger, Hong Ya Breakfast, Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle
Taipei Convenience Store Foods
Shilin Night Market 士林夜市 (Taipei, Taiwan)
Breakfast Buffet at the Shangri-La (Taipei, Taiwan)
Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup, 4 versions (Taipei, Taiwan)
Yehliu 野柳 Geopark; Dried Seafood (Taiwan)

More [eatingclub] vancouver Chinese

Enjoyed this post? Why not subscribe to our blog? Subscribe via reader or subscribe via email. Thank you!

image from Pei Mei's Homestyle Cooking

Minced Leek with Clam Meat
from Pei Mei's Homestyle Cooking

Feel free to follow this original recipe or my version. I've put my substitutions in green and italics.

150g clam meat
2 dried black mushrooms (or button mushrooms)
150g ground pork (or bacon, or cooked ham, chopped)

6 water chestnuts
150g leek (I used leek, not garlic scapes)
1 stick you-tiao (Chinese donut) (omitted)
12 pieces lettuce leaves (optional)

1 teaspoon wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

pinch pepper
cornstarch paste/slurry

Cut clam meat if it is too large. Soak and chop black mushrooms. Also cut water chestnut and leek into small pieces.

Cut you-tiao into small pieces and deep-fry until crispy. Or, bake in the oven until crispy. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok and stir-fry ground pork and black mushrooms for a while. Stir in the water chestnuts and clam meat, add seasonings, and mix evenly over high heat. Add leek, mix in and turn off heat.

For my version, since I used leeks and not garlic scapes, I started by cooking the ham and leek first, then added in the mushrooms and water chestnuts. I also added the seasonings at this time. When the leeks and mushrooms were tender, I added the clams.

Cornstarch slurry -- cornstarch dissolved in cold water -- is optional for thickening the liquid/juices in the pan.

Serve with lettuce leaves or egg roll wrappers.

Enjoyed this post? Why not subscribe to our blog? Subscribe via reader or subscribe via email. Thank you!

For showcasing LEEKS, we're submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event (created by Kalyn's Kitchen, now maintained by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once) with the goal of helping each other learn about cooking with herbs and plant ingredients.

If you'd like to participate, see
who's hosting next week. WHB is hosted this week by Huan of Eat.Read.Live.


  1. Never tried frozen clams before. Would they taste fresh?

  2. Weird I would never think of garlic scapes & leeks being called the same thing. They are so different in taste & how they grow

  3. tigerfish:
    The frozen clams were actually pretty good. Not fear-inducing. ;)

    It's just how they translate stuff into English. Like, for example, they also translate garlic chives into just "chives" -- which are not the same thing at all.

  4. Wow, you guys! This looks awesome!!!

  5. I always have a stash of frozen prawns, they are so convenient! Love the leeks here...yum!

  6. I don't mind frozen clams. They're my default choice when making clam chowder or clam linguini. Otherwise, there's no way I'm going to the trouble of steaming clams to pick out their meat to make those dishes.

  7. Okay, so seriously, what is Chinese doughnut? I'm totally intrigued....and I'm guessing that it's not at all what I'm thinking of, considering that you called for a stick of it.

  8. Jenn: The Leftover Queen:
    Thanks! =) It was fun to eat too, hehe.

    Strangely enough, we don't buy prawns -- even frozen ones -- unless we know we're going to use them soon.

    Wandering Chopsticks:
    Haha, that must be why we don't ever make clam chowder. When we cook clams, they're always in the shells. Too lazy to take them out!

    CB Tina:
    It's fried dough, to put it simply. They're usually eaten with congee. Here:

  9. Oooh, so they ARE doughnut-like, and I've eaten those at dim sum before (I love the creamy sweet peanut butter sauce with the fried dough. Makes me feel like a kid).


  10. CB Tina:
    Heyyyyy... what's that, you say. I'll have to try and find a place that serves them PB sauce here.


LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs