Wednesdays and Fridays are for seafood, Sundays for meat and the remaining days of the week are reserved for vegetarian food. My family has been following this simple rule of thumb since I was a little kid, or may be since before i was born. It’s not just my family but a lot of Indians I know follow this pattern regularly. In Hinduism, each day of a week is dedicated to a particular god in the Hindu pantheon. Monday is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Tuesday is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Durga, Goddess Kali and Lord Hanuman, Thursday is dedicated to Lord Vishnu- hence meat-free food is consumed on these particular days of the week. Now, my family isn’t strictly religious, but the habit has stuck. I believe that this simple habit has been great in balancing out our diets (veggies + meat) evenly.
Yesterday, was a seafood day, and my mom had cooked Clams (Shimplya) for lunch. Clams are used widely in Konkani cooking. Konkan region is a rugged section of the western coastline of India which includes the district of Mumbai. The ‘coconuty clam masala’ is one of my mom’s specialties! The slightly dry coconut masala is hot, spicy, tangy, and sweet all at the same time.
While using clams for cooking, the clams are opened carefully and the soft meat inside the shell is used in a variety of dishes. Usually one of the two shells is kept intact as the shell works as a container for the masala that goes along with the flesh.
All Images © Neha Deshmukh
Recipe @ My Mom
Shimplya (Clams)- Opening & Cleaning
The cleaning process of freshwater clams is a lot different from the cleaning process of mussels. Unlike mussels, clams don’t clean themselves when they are soaked in cold water. They have to be opened, and cleaned individually! Thats right, individually! I have to admit, this process can be time consuming and could be a ton of hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s very important that the clams are cleaned thoroughly from the inside or else the grit will be terribly unpleasant and will ruin the dish. The grit, a lot of times, won’t be in the shells, but will be in the bodies of the clams themselves. Sometimes, there will be tiny crabs inside the clams that would be have to discarded as well.
Here it goes…
Wash the clams under running water, clean all the sand that is stuck on the surface of the shells. Put the clams in a large dish so that they are all spread out. Then, put them in the deep freezer for 20-30 mins. After sitting in the freezer for about half hour the clams should start opening their mouths a little (all of the clams won’t open their mouths at the same time though). Insert a knife or a fork to open the rest of the clams and check if there is any sand inside. Once opened, only wash the clams that have any dirt in them, not all of the clams are going to be gritty and dirty. Washing the flesh unnecessarily will rid it of it’s taste.
Once you open the clams, you will see that the flesh will be sitting in one shell while the other shell will be almost empty. Break off the empty shell from the flesh filled shell, we won’t be using the empty shell. So at the end of the cleaning session we should end up with a bowlful of clean singular flesh filled shells ready to be used in our recipe. Beautiful!
The above explained cleaning process is what my family has been using since I can remember, and it’s been passed down from generations. I researched a little bit on the internet and a lot of articles recommend using either cornmeal or oatmeal in the purging water, but I have no idea if that works or not. Let me know if you have tried it.
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 cup opened clams
- 1/2 cup grated coconut
- 1- 1.5 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1/2 inch long piece of ginger root- grated
- 3 amsul pieces (dried kokum)
- 1/4th teaspoon garam masala
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- coriander leaves for garnishing
- Heat (low heat) oil in a pot, add grated ginger root to the oil and stir instantly or else the grated ginger will stick to the base of the pot. Keep stirring the ginger for 10-15 secs till it’s color changes to nice roasty brown.
- Now add the chopped onions to the pot, and stir. Let the onion cook for 10 minutes till it turns translucent and soft.
- Add clams, red chili powder, turmeric, salt to the pot and saute for 5 mins (till the moisture in the pan almost dries up)
- Mix in amsuls, coriander powder and coconut with the ingredients in the pot.
- Cover and cook for 10 mins on low heat stirring often.
- When done garnish with cilantro leaves.
So what do we have this with?
This recipe goes really well with chapati or simple dal and rice. Sometimes I like having this dish as an appetizer along side my beer The drink in the picture is lemonade with ice.