Japanese-Style Clam Chowder

Asari no Miso Wan

The Japanese adore clam chowder as much as we do, but their version is quite different from either our creamy New England or our spicy Manhattan style. The Japanese serve the clams in their shells, seasoning and thickening the broth with pungent, rich bean paste. A garnish of fresh chives or scallions completes the dish.


  • 3 dozen littleneck or quahog clams
  • 20 square inches dashi kombu (kelp for stock making)
  • ¼ cup saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2-3 tablespoons aka miso (dark fermented bean paste)
  • 1 teaspoon mirin (syrupy rice wine), optional
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


  1. Scrub the clams, then soak them in salted water (1 scant tablespoon of salt for 3-4 cups cold water) for 20-30 minutes to help disgorge any sand. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
  2. Place the clams in a large wide-mouthed pot with the kelp, rice wine, and water. Cover, and cook over high heat for 4—5 minutes or until the clams are steamed open (discard any that do not open).
  3. Divide the clams among four shallow bowls.
  4. Strain the broth through a paper- or cloth-lined colander into a clean pot. You should have about 1 to 1½ cups liquid. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the bean paste. Taste; if the flavor is not robust enough, whisk in the remaining bean paste. If the broth is very salty, add the syrupy rice wine. Briefly reheat the bean-thickened broth, but do not let it boil.
  5. Pour the broth over the clams, and garnish each portion with some chopped chives. Serve immediately.