Soy-Simmered Conch

Sazaé no Shōyu Ni

The Japanese steam and simmer all manner of molluscs, then cool them and thinly slice the meat to serve as chewy snacks with icy beer in the hot weather, or with warmed saké in the chilly months. Although the Japanese favor an abalone-like creature called tokubushi for this kind of soy simmering, the most readily available single-shelled mollusc in America is conch, also known as whelk. They are sold here as presteamed steaks. In the Pacific Northwest, geoduck is sometimes available, and is delicious when prepared shōyu ni style.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 presteamed conch steaks about 2 ounces each or 2 live geoduck clams about 4 ounces each
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce

Method

  1. If you are using presteamed conch steaks, blanch them in boiling water to barely cover for 2 minutes. Drain, and proceed to step 3.
  2. If you are using geoduck clams, immerse them in rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer them to a bowl of ice water. The hot “bath” should have loosened the skin from the siphon meat (the part extending from the shell) and from the shell. Remove the skin from the siphon meat and cut off this portion, which requires longer cooking than the belly meat. Discard the shell, and trim the viscera away from the belly meat. Parboil the siphon meat for 15-20 minutes in water to barely cover (add more water only as necessary to keep the meat from scorching). Add the belly meat to the pot and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Strain the broth and reserve it separately from meat.
  3. Place the conch steaks or geoduck siphon and belly meats in either water or broth (reserved from parboiling) to cover. Add the rice wine and bring to a boil. Skim away any froth, adjust the heat to maintain a low boil, and cook for 3-4 minutes. (Throughout the simmering process, it is best to use an otoshi-buta, or dropped lid, described here. If you do not have a dropped lid, remember to baste the simmering meats often with the seasoned liquid.)
  4. Add the sugar and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. If the conch or geoduck looks to be in danger of scorching, add a few drops more water or broth.
  5. Add the soy sauce and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes, or until nearly all the liquid is gone and the meat is slightly glazed. Allow the conch or geoduck to cool to room temperature in the cooking pot.
  6. Before serving, slice the conch or clam meats into thin (1/16-inch) slices. Arrange individual portions of 5-6 slices, leaning against each other domino-style, on small plates.
  7. If you want to make a large amount of soy-simmered conch or clam meats to keep for another occasion, store them whole. Wrapped in clear plastic wrap and refrigerated, the meats will keep for a week to 10 days.

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