This is a familiar Cantonese classic one that has survived its trip from China to the West relatively unscathed. Often, however, foolish shortcuts are taken. For example, the clams and sauce are cooked separately and the sauce is simply poured over them. Of course, this doesn’t flavor the clams, making the method unacceptable. A fine dish like this, no matter how familiar, should be cooked properly, according to tradition, which is what is done here.

2 quarts water

30 medium-sized clams, scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove sand and grit


2/3 cup Chicken Stock

1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon mung bean starch

1 teaspoon sugar

Pinch of white pepper

3 tablespoons peanut oil

2 tablespoons peeled and shredded ginger

2 tablespoons julienned garlic

3 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed twice and well drained

1 tablespoon thin sliced fresh coriander leaves

1 tablespoon thin sliced green scallion tops

1. Pour the water into a wok and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the clams and allow the water to return to a boil. This will take 4 to 5 minutes. The clams will begin to open. Move them about with a spatula to help the process along. As they open, remove them to a waiting dish, to prevent them from becoming tough. Continue until all of the clams have opened (discard any that do not open). Set the clams aside. Discard the water and wash and dry the wok and spatula and reserve.

2. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and reserve.

3. Heat the wok over high heat for 40 seconds. Add the peanut oil and, using the spatula, coat the wok with the oil. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the ginger, garlic and black beans, and stir to mix well for about 1 minute, or until the garlic and black beans release their fragrance. Add the clams and stir to mix for 2 minutes. Make a well in the center of the clams, stir the sauce, and pour it into the well. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the clams are thoroughly coated with the sauce.

4. Turn off the heat and transfer to a heated dish. Sprinkle with the coriander and scallion and serve.

Makes 4 servings