There are many kinds of saltwater and freshwater clams in Japan, and they’re enjoyed in a variety of dishes. Here, soft-shell clams are steamed and their broth is used to cook rice. The clam meats are then tossed into the rice and the dish is garnished with parsley and sea herb flakes. In its native Japan, this pilaflike dish might be served with just a miso-thickened soup and pickled vegetables for a light meal. In America it could provide the perfect backdrop to almost any meat, fish, or vegetable entrée.
Make a salted water solution to cover the clams. (It should taste briny, like the ocean.) Soak the clams in it for 1–2 hours. Stir up the water, scrubbing the clam shells with a brush to remove gritty material. Rinse the clams under fresh cold water, then drain.
Place the kelp in the bottom of a sturdy pot large enough to hold all the clams in a single layer. Add
Over high heat, bring the liquid in the pot to a rolling boil. Soon thereafter, you’ll hear the sound of the clam shells popping open. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook, covered, for 2–2½ minutes after the shells have opened. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the broth through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander into a measuring cup. Set the clams and kelp aside; you’ll need them later in this recipe. Season the broth with the light soy sauce, then add enough water to make
Wash the rice with cold water, rinsing until the water runs clear. Drain the rice before placing it in a sturdy, straight-sided
Pour in the seasoned clam broth and cover the pot securely. Over high heat, bring the liquid to a rolling boil. This will take about 5 minutes and you’ll hear the liquid bubbling and may see the lid dance a bit, too. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer and continue to cook the rice, tightly lidded, until all the liquid has been absorbed. This will take about 5 minutes and you’ll be able to hear a dry, hissing sound from the pot. Take a quick look inside to check the rice’s progress if you must, but replace the lid immediately. Remove the pot from the heat and let the cooked rice sit for 10–15 minutes, lidded and undisturbed.
Remove the clam meats from their shells. Rinse the meats quickly if necessary to rid them of any sandy material. Remove and discard any membrane coverings on the “feet” of the clam meats (the part that extends from the shell). Pat the clams dry and mince coarsely. Toss these pieces into the cooked rice after discarding the kelp from the rice pot.
In a small bowl, combine the parsley flakes with the sea herb flakes. Crush the mixture with your fingertips, then sprinkle over the hot rice. This will add a delightfully fresh and briny aroma to the rice dish. Serve immediately, or allow the rice to cool to room temperature if you prefer.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.