Manila clams are a small species of clams that grow both in the wild and on farms in the Pacific Northwest. They are not a native species, but arrived aboard ships in the 1930s.
Aside from cockles, Manila clams are about the smallest of commonly eaten shellfish, at just 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Each clam is really just a single bite. They are fantastic as an appetizer in a broth of their own juices, white wine and garlic sopped up with crusty bread. They also work well in pasta dishes and seafood stews, or even as a pizza topping. They are an especially good match for garlic and spicy tomato sauces.
Before they are used, live Manila clams should be placed in a large bowl of clear ice water for an hour. This will allow them to release any sand or grit that is inside their shells. Because they are so small, Manila clams cook very quickly in or over simmering liquid such as stock or wine; as soon as they open they are ready to eat. They can also be quickly grilled over alder or cedar for a lightly smokey flavor and then served with drawn butter. Like many shellfish, they become rubbery if overcooked.
Manila clams sport deep, wide bars of color on a finely ridged shell that make them distinctive.
Selecting and Buying
Preparation and Use
Manila clams can be steamed, eaten on the halfshell, or be used in soups and pastas.