Editor’s Note: In our 2014 fall travel issue, Brooklyn author, blogger and local food supporter Cathy Erway writes about her recent trips to Taiwan, where her mother is originally from, to research a forthcoming cookbook on the food of the region. As she recounts, she made this dish at a dinner party in Taipei: Traditionally, it is made with peeled loofah gourd shown above, but you can easily substitute zucchini or any summer squash, which are currently plentiful in markets and community garden plots.
Taiwanese braised clams with loofah squash
Serves 4–6; reprinted with permission from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. Copyright 2015.
Note: Loofah gourd is a squash eaten in Taiwan and found in Asian markets such as New York Mart and Fei Long Supermarket, both on Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park.
2 pounds manila clams, rinsed and scrubbed
2 tablespoons vegetable, peanut or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-sized peeled loofah gourds, zucchini or summer squash
1 cup pork or chicken stock (or substitute water)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
Salt and white pepper to taste
1. Trim the ends from the squash or gourds. Cut in halves lengthwise, then into half-discs about ½ inch thick.
2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large fry pan or saucepan with a lid. Add the garlic and cook about 10 seconds, followed by the chopped squash or gourd. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1–2 minutes, seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper.
3. Add the water or stock and bring to a boil. Drop in the clams and cover the pot. Let cook covered for 3–4 minutes. Peek inside; if all the clams have opened, remove lid. If not, cover and continue to cook another 1–2 minutes. Remove and discard any clams that have not opened after about 6 minutes of cooking.
4. Combine the cornstarch and white pepper in a separate bowl. Bring the clam and squash mixture to a boil, then pour in the cornstarch slurry. Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
Photo Credit: Lauren Volo