Why It Works
- Briny clams complement the savory seafood punch of XO sauce.
- Purging the clams guarantees they won't be sandy.
- Removing the clams as they steam and open in the skillet ensures that they don't overcook and become rubbery.
If you have a batch of homemade XO sauce kicking around in your fridge, and are looking for another recipe to use it in, then you've come to the right place. Clams with XO is a classic combination that doubles down on the savory seafood notes of this awesome condiment, with briny, juicy fresh clams playing a nice foil to the chewy crunch of the dried scallops and shrimp in the XO.
After giving the clams a salt-water soak to purge them of any sand or grit, we quickly cook fresh aromatics like garlic and ginger, which are also used in the XO sauce, in some oil to provide vegetal brightness to the dish. We add clams and Shaoxing wine to the pan, which we then cover to allow the clams to quickly steam, and we remove the clams as they begin to open, rather than waiting to remove them all at once, to prevent them from overcooking and turning rubbery. Once the clams are all out of the pan, we stir a generous amount of XO sauce into the cooking liquid to form an intense seafood pan sauce. This XO-clam sauce gets spooned over the clams, followed by a sprinkling of scallion greens.
Serve this as-is for an appetizer, or with steamed white rice as a main course. This is another example of how setting yourself up for success by stocking your fridge with flavor-bomb condiments like XO sauce makes cooking a whole lot easier on the back-end.
- Kosher salt
- 2 pounds (900g) fresh small clams, such as littlenecks, Manilas, or cockles (about 3 dozen littlenecks or 4 dozen Manilas or cockles)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves (20g), thinly sliced
- 2 scallions (40g), white and green parts divided and thinly sliced
- 1-inch piece (1/2 ounce; 15g) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 fresh green or red Thai chili, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup (120ml) Shaoxing wine (see note)
- 1/4 cup (75g) XO sauce
Fill a large bowl with cold water and stir in enough salt to make it salty like the sea (a 3% salt solution, by weight, is a good ratio). Add clams and let stand 30 minutes. Lift clams from water and discard purging water; if there is sand in the bottom of the bowl, rinse it out and repeat this process until clams no longer release sand into the water (usually 2 to 3 purging cycles). Discard any clams that are gaping open and refuse to close when prodded.
In a large skillet or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, white scallion parts, ginger, and Thai chili, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are lightly golden and just begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add clams and Shaoxing wine, cover, and increase heat to high. Cook, checking every 30 seconds or so and transferring clams as they open to a large heatproof serving bowl, until all clams have opened, about 5 minutes. Taste the cooking liquid for seasoning; if it is especially salty, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the salinity is brought back into balance.
Add XO sauce to skillet, and stir until XO is heated through and well-incorporated. Spoon sauce over the clams, and then scatter reserved green scallion parts over top. Serve immediately.
Large skillet or wok
Dry sherry, or in a pinch even a dry white wine, can be substituted for Shaoxing wine.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The clams can be purged and stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day in advance. The rest of the recipe comes together very quickly and, as with most fresh shellfish dishes, is best enjoyed immediately.