Fresh clam-mussel soup

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By Chef Ed Dychauco

Pots and Pans

Thursday, April 24, 2014


VISUALIZE yourself being near the seashore, under the shade of the lush coconut trees. Imagine the abundance of seafood like fish, squids, shells, crabs, octopi, shrimps and so much more caught fresh and delivered to you. It would be like living healthily in a paradise, with the open skies, the vast waterfront, the mountains and the verdant and flourishing greens around, plus the fresh air!

What a life! Wouldn’t it be nice to at least even dream of it?

Anyway, surely after the Lenten season, everyone is back to normal “partying” with the sorts of food that were temporarily put on hold like chicken, pork and beef. But somehow, I think the presence of clams and mussels in its simpler form would still excite our taste buds.

It took me quite some time to really like this seafood. I guess it is because I practically grew up in Manila and these were quite pricey, so it was not a “regular” item in our menu at home. But I do recall the times when I was vacationing in the lovely island of Camiguin. I could hear vendors selling freshly caught seafood, screaming at the top of their voices early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Since there was no electricity then -- meaning no refrigeration -- these delicious iodine-rich specials had to be cooked and eaten right away to prevent spoilage.

I guess I was more amazed and bewildered with these creatures that I wanted to “play” with them rather than eat them.

However, time has changed and becoming a culinary artist has opened doors for me to try different food, to prepare them in various ways and methods and enjoy what nature has to offer.

Simplicity is beauty, as the saying goes and I still believe in it in so many ways.

Clams or mussels or sea shells can be prepared in so many ways but there are times when I feel like enjoying it using simple cooking methods with simple ingredients that are available at home. Rather than incorporating it with cream, milk, butter and other rich ingredients which truly make this dish more delectable, sometimes I would rather use straightforward ingredients like garlic, onions or green onions, tomatoes and ginger to bring out the best flavors.

In fact, just a soup of clams and mussels is already delightful. Salty and sweet with the addition of the abovementioned ingredients, it is just divine!

Make sure to soak and clean (and maybe scrub, too) the sea shells or one will end up tasting a lot of sand in the soup. They should be washed several times to make sure they are clean.

I always simplify this recipe, so much so that I only have to dump everything together: some chopped garlic, sliced onions or green onions, crushed or sliced ginger (lots of it!), sliced tomatoes and the clams or mussels with a cup or so of water.

A few drops of olive oil and some white wine can also be added for a more pronounced and delicious flavor.

Let the whole thing cook by boiling. Towards the end, I recommend dropping several greens (like spinach) for added fiber and aroma.

It just takes a few second and the soup is ready!

I would also sprinkle some white or black pepper, but this can be omitted.

Of course, all the above mentioned “aromatics” can also be sautéed in hot oil prior to adding the clams and the liquid for a better taste.

It takes about 5-10 minutes or so for the shells to open—which means that just after a little while they are ready to be devoured!

How simple can this be? No effort at all in preparing this wonderful soup!

By the way, how were your “holy” days?

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 24, 2014.

Lifestyle

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