These Vietnamese tamarind razor clams are finger licking good with a bit of sweet, sour, heat, and umami with every bite.
Recently I brought you the recipes for tamarind crabs and tamarind prawns and thought it would be fun to include a recipe for Vietnamese tamarind razor clams. This dish brings the tang from the tamarind, the heat of the bird’s eye chili along with the sweetness of the razor clams. Slurping up these tamarind razor clams takes me back to Vung Tau and those family beach vacations.
- Razor clams: for this recipe, I used Atlantic razor clams. If you can't find razor clams, substitute with manila clams.
- Tamarind: tamarind paste is made from sour, dark, sticky tamarind pods. Blocks of tamarind are regular shelf items at Indian and Asian grocery stores or online. For this recipe, you need to make tamarind water from the paste.
- Aromatics: the garlic, scallions, and shallots add a lot of flavor to the sauce. Don’t skip them.
- Fish sauce: use a quality fish sauce. Some of my favorite brands are Three Crabs, Flying Lion Premium Fish Sauce, and Red Boat Fish Sauce.
How to Prep Razor Clams
Razor clams need to be cleaned properly before cooking. Put the clams in a container with salted cold water for half an hour to purge the excess sand. Check the outside of the shells to make sure they aren’t broken. Any damaged shells should be discarded. If you see the white flesh sticking out of their shells, give them a quick tap and they should wriggle back inside the shell. Give the razor clams a quick rinse before you cook them.
Tips for Cooking Razor Clams
- The real key to making this dish successfully is to have the freshest razor clams you can get. They are the heroes of this dish.
- Use a big pan to accommodate all of them.
- Razor clams cook fast. It only takes 2-3 minutes for them to cook so keep an eye on them. Don’t overcook them or the meat will taste rubbery and tough.
- Remove the razor clams from the pan and continue cooking the sauce by itself for another 10 minutes on high heat to concentrate the flavor.
These tamarind razor clams are finger licking good! You get a bit of sweet, sour, heat, and umami with every bite of tender, juicy razor clam. Make sure you have a cold beer and plenty of paper towels nearby.
Vietnamese Tamarind Razor Clams
- 1.5 pounds razor clams, cleaned and purged
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ tablespoon peppercorns
- ½ cup tamarind sauce
- 2 bird's eye chilis, thinly sliced and extra for serving
- ¼ cup basil leaves
- ½ cup tamarind water
- 2 tbsps fish sauce
- 2 tbsps sugar
- 2 ounces tamarind paste
- ¾ cup boiling water
- To make the tamarind water, soak the tamarind paste in boiling water for 5 minutes breaking up any chunks with a spoon. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Pass the mixture through a sieve to get the tamarind water.
- To make the tamarind sauce, in a bowl whisk together tamarind water, fish sauce, and sugar until well combined.
- Add the oil, garlic, and shallots to a hot pan. Saute over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
- Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the peppercorns and razor clams and toss for 1 minute.
- Pour the tamarind sauce over the prawns. Put the lid on the pan and let the razor clams cook for 2-3 minutes until they open. Transfer the clams to a serving platter.
- Let the sauce cook on high heat for 10 minutes until it becomes thicker. Add 2 tbsps basil leaves and chilis and cook for another 2 minutes for the basil and chilis to release their flavors.
- Pour the sauce over the prawns. Garnish with more basil and chilis and serve immediately.