This clam soup is a favourite of mine in Hua Hin, a beach town in the south of Thailand. The dish embodies successful simplicity. There is perfect balance between the savoury clam nectar and the citrus aromas of the holy basil. I wanted to recreate that—and improve on it—by adding B.C. matsutake mushrooms. The intense aroma of the pine mushrooms is a perfect complement to the clams and holy basil. My dish has Thai flavour—but it’s very Canadian. —A.A.
- 1 L (4 cups) chicken stock
- Salt, granulated sugar
- 300 g (10 oz) matsutake mushrooms, brushed and trimmed
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 4 shallots, peeled
- 2 cm (1 inch) piece galangal
- 3 cilantro roots
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 3 (or more, to taste) bird’s eye chilies
- 450 g (1 lb) littleneck clams, scrubbed and flushed
- 1 handful holy basil leaves
- 1 pinch chopped pak chi farang (sawtooth coriander)
- 125 ml (½ cup) lime juice
- 125 ml (½ cup) fish sauce
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan bring stock to a simmer on medium heat, then lower to medium-low. Season with a generous pinch of salt and sugar. Thinly slice the matsutake, and set aside a generous handful of the most perfect slices. Add the spotted, marked and otherwise imperfect slices to the stock, and simmer until it is infused with their flavour—about 20 minutes. Strain, and discard mushrooms.
Transfer lemongrass, shallots, galangal, cilantro root, lime leaves and chilies to a large mortar, and bash with a pestle until well bruised (or do this on your chopping block with a mallet or cleaver). Add the braised aromatics whole to the strained broth, stir, and simmer until fragrant—about 10 minutes. Add the clams and cook until they pop open —about 5 minutes more. Add the holy basil leaves and pak chi farang. Season with lime juice and fish sauce to taste: you want the soup to first taste spicy, then sour and salty—but not sweet. Add the reserved matsutake slices, divide broth, clams and matsutake between four warm bowls, and serve.
Food photography courtesy of Maenam
Portrait courtesy ofEllenn Hong, interior courtesy of Hamidd Attie
The acidity of this wine helps combat the umami while the slight residual sugar balances out the spice.
For more info on these and other fine wines, go to Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits.