Chilli and garlic ‘wealthy’ clams

Chilli and garlic ‘wealthy’ clams

Chinese Unchopped
15 mins
Cooking time
5 mins
Martin Poole

When thinking of Hong Kong, most people picture a big, busy, skyscraper-filled city, but I immediately imagine (and can even almost taste) a giant bowl of chilli and garlic clams, enjoyed while sitting next to the seafront of Sai Kung harbour. Dotted with fishing boats, Sai Kung is nothing but low-rise houses, beaches and restaurants full of fresh seafood – quite the contrast to modern Hong Kong. The Chinese like to think that clams look like old gold bullions, and therefore represent good wealth, which is why this dish is eaten a lot during Chinese New Year.


Quantity Ingredient
500g fresh clams
2 garlic cloves
a thumb-size piece ginger
2 fresh red chillies
a small handful fresh coriander sprigs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

The sauce

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon chilli bean sauce
4 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce


  1. Sort through the clams, discarding any that don’t close when tapped gently.
  2. Wash the clams thoroughly by running them under cold water and rinsing them 3 or 4 times, then place the clams in a mixing bowl.
  3. Finely chop the garlic, ginger and chillies. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or ramekin.
  4. BUILD YOUR WOK CLOCK: place your chopped garlic at 12 o’clock, then arrange the ginger, chillies, clams, sauce bowl and coriander clockwise around your plate.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat, then add the garlic, chilli and ginger and stir-fry for 20–30 seconds until fragrant.
  6. Increase the heat to high and add the clams to the wok, then immediately pour over the sauce and bring to a vigorous boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 3–5 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the clams have opened up. Some clams may still remain closed after cooking – discard any that haven’t opened after this time.
  7. Tip the clams into a large bowl, stir in the coriander sprigs and serve.


  • Chilli bean sauce is made mainly of minced fermented broad beans, chilli and garlic. If you cannot find it, blend together 3 fresh large red chillies, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon of tinned butter beans along with 1 tablespoon of the brine solution from the butter beans for a close substitution.


  • As with all seafood, the most important tip here is not to overcook the clams – remember to control the heat of your wok by shaking it when needed, so as to cook them just through, but no more.
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