Korean Coconut Clam + Mussel Chowder

When it comes to clam chowder, some people waffle between New England and Manhattan style chowder. I've always been a creamy-dreamy kinda girl, so it's always been New England for me. But what if East Coast hopped on a jet-plane and stopped in for a visit in the Far East ... specifically, Korea, perhaps? Kim Jong-un aside, it could be a very good thing.

You may recall I that in my most previous post I suggested the need to use up a substantial amount of coconut milk as it came boxed and I was uncertain of its freezer-hardiness. Yes, that means I've posted another dish employing that luscious milk of the islands ... but I used it all up in this chowder so the next post should be coconut free (don't hold yer breath).

Hands down, my favorite cooking blog that features unique Asian-inspired recipes is written by Mandy of Lady and Pups. I discovered her blog through Saveur (she's up for their blogger of the year award again) and always come away from her recipes inspired - and starving. This is my take on her recent Korean Clam Chowder recipe. With an serious addiction to the Korean chili paste gochujang, her recipe for a twist on the classic Clam Chowder caught my wandering eye.

I like clams, but I adore mussels and since I had access to them, I added them to my pot. You can use all clams if you'd like, or all mussels. I politely asked half of the whole milk to allow some coconut milk to join in, and I substituted the remaining bit of coconut cream I was holding onto for the regular cream Mandy's recipe called for. I suppose this turns an already decadent dish into one bordering on sensory suicide, but somehow, I think Mandy would be totally okay with that.

If you love beautiful food and beautiful food blogs, be sure to vote for Mandy

Korean Coconut Clam + Mussel Chowder

Based on My Big, Fat, Spicy Korean Clam Chowder recipe from Lady and Pups blog

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3oz pancetta, finely diced (bacon is a fine substitute)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1/4 cup sake wine
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang / Korean chili paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 2 medium starchy potatoes, diced and divided in half
  • 3/4 tsp each freshly ground black and white pepper
  • 3/4 cup coconut cream
  • 12-15 fresh little neck clams
  • 12 - 15 fresh mussels
  • 1 heaping cup clam/mussel meat (canned - or you can use fresh, but you'll need additional fresh clams and mussels - around 25-30 for that)
  • diced chives for garnish
  • fish sauce to season

Instructions

  1. If you're using fresh clams and mussles for the 1 cup of meat and clam juice, combine the clams and mussels in a large pot with the sake wine (if you're using the sake now to steam your clams and mussels, do not add it again later). Place a lid on the pot and cook the shellfish for 2-3 minutes until they open. Be sure to toss aside any shellfish that do not open. Remove the meat and discard the shells. Strain the liquid from the pot through a fine sieve - you should have about 1 cup of liquid. Set the clam juice and meat aside.
  2. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the pancetta, cooking until the fat renders and the meat becomes golden brown. Add the diced onions, celery and bay leaves and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables become soft and translucent. Add the flour and cook for an additional minute or so, then add the milk, coconut milk, clam juice, sake (unless you used it earlier to make your clam juice), gochujang, miso paste, 1/2 of your diced potatoes and the black and white pepper. Stir this mixture constantly until the gochujang and miso paste have completely dissolved. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 of your potatoes in a small pot with the coconut cream. Cover the pot and heat over medium-low to low for about 5 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Check on this pot every now and again, you don't want your cream to burn. Set the potatoes and cream aside.
  4. After you have simmered the cream mixture for 20 minutes, it might look a bit ... unattractive. No worries! You're going to blend it all up so what might look like broken mess is going to come together quite nicely! If you have an immersion blender (and you really should - they're relatively inexpensive), I recommend using it here to blend the chowder and potato mixture right in the pot as opposed to having to ladle half of it into a blender. However you need to do it, blend the soup mixture until it's rich and creamy looking. Add the potatoes and coconut cream you've got waiting on the side and the fresh clams and mussles you've held in reserve. Simmer this on low heat for 5 minutes. This is important - the soup should simmer but never boil or it might break again and look just awful. Stir the chowder occasionally until the fresh clams and mussels have opened. Add your reserved cup of clam and mussel meat to the pot. Taste the chowder and if necessary, add a dash or two of fish sauce to season. 

I enjoyed this sweet, spicy chowder with a bowl of steamed white rice. Sprinkle the fresh chives on your chowder and enjoy!