Clams with Fresh Basil

I have not come across too many uses for basil in Chinese cooking, but occasionally you can find a dish on a Chinese menu that is made with something called “nine-layer pagoda,” (jiuceng ta) which is, according to the Evergreen Seeds site, also known as Thai basil. Thai basil has a stronger flavor and a hint of cloves, but if you can’t find it, any fresh basil will work just fine in this recipe. If you can’t find fresh clams, Asian markets sometimes carry frozen ones still in their shells – odd, but they really do cook up well, although I am sometimes a bit wary of how sustainable that option is.


  • 1.5 lb small clams in their shells (visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to learn how to purchase the most sustainable variety)
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T light soy sauce or miso paste
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry
  • 2 T cooking oil
  • 2 slices fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/2 oz fresh basil, leaves removed from the stem and gently rinsed.
  • 1 fresh red chili (optional), cut into small rings
  • sea salt, to taste


  1. Soak the clams in cool water for 20-30 m to release any grit, then gently rinse and set aside. Get rid of any that do not close firmly when gently tapped.
  2. In a bowl, combine the water, soy sauce and cooking wine and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in the wok over medium high heat just until it shimmers, and explode the ginger, garlic, and scallions just until fragrant.
  4. Add the clams and stirfry gently, then add the liquid, reduce the heat to medium, and partially cover to allow the clams to steam for approximately 1-2 m. They should just begin to open.
  5. Add the basil and chili pepper, stir gently a few times to combine thoroughly and allow the liquid to evaporate.
  6. Adjust the seasoning and serve.