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In India, clams have many names—five, the last time I counted—and come in varying shapes, sizes, and colors. I've always found that compared to other fish and shellfish, clams are rather mild in flavor, with a gentle sweetness, light bitterness, and just a touch of oceany aroma. They're a great way to get into seafood stews and curries if you aren't quite ready to take the plunge into fish; this stew, made with chilies, ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, and coconut, is a particularly good way to enjoy them.
Depending on where you get your clams, the most time-consuming part of this dish can be cleaning them. Since they're filter feeders, they tend to come with a lot of grit. Some fishmongers will purge their clams before selling them, getting rid of most of the sandy dirt trapped inside. The easiest way I've discovered to get rid of it at home is to boil them covered by about 2 inches of water, shuck them, and then rinse the meat off in the liquid. Once you've cleaned and shucked them all, take the liquid off the heat so that the sand settles to the bottom. You can then pour off the flavorful liquid from the top and reduce it as necessary.
With its mild seasoning, this dish is really more Anglo-Indian in nature, but that doesn't make it any less delicious. You can use white bread to soak up all its broth, or serve it with fluffy white rice. Whatever you do, just don't let that precious liquid go to waste!
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