3 awesome clam dishes to try in Dubai

“As happy as a clam” is one of the stranger sayings in the English language. A bowl of the small, heart-shaped molluscs might look pretty content but it’s only when the full phrase is used that it makes sense. “As happy as a clam at high tide” refers to the fact that clams are harvested at low tide – and the extra three words do offer some important context.

Although the clams might disagree, digging for them can be great fun, too. Rory Duncan, head chef of La Petite Maison, has clearly done it a few times. “Look for small holes in the mud or sand,” he says. “Clams like to be in groups, so take a hoe, a spade and large bucket.”

There are many species of marine and freshwater clams, but not all are edible. Francesco Di Noia, chef de cuisine at Alta Badia, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, favours Italian clams from the north Adriatic Sea, while Rory rates clams from UK’s Cornwall – “a seafood-lover’s paradise”.

If the closest you’ll get to picking clams is at your local market, you need to “avoid all broken clams, clams that smell bad, or clams whose shells aren’t tightly closed,” Rory advises.

Then there’s the issue of cleaning them. Francesco says you should submerge them in water. “As they soak, they’ll naturally spit out any salt, sand and ocean particles they’ve absorbed.” You should put them in a bowl of cool, fresh water, cover with a damp towel and then refrigerate for up to an hour – and repeat the process.

To cook them, Rory says they’re best simply steamed, or served with pasta in a tomato sauce. Francesco recommends trying them sautéed: “Just add olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley and you have a satisfying dish. Spaghetti or fregola, a Sardinian pasta similar to couscous, work well with clams.”

Whatever you do, don’t mix clams with poultry, celery or cheese. That’ll make your guests most unhappy. And your clams.

Three dishes to try:

Cavatelli pasta with cozze e vongole sauce
The sauce includes Italian clams, mussels, cherry tomatoes, garlic, red chilli and fresh parsley. Buono!
Where: Alta Badia, Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Contact: +9714 319 8771

Clams á la Provencale
Here, cold clams are served with courgettes and artichokes. Super French and super refreshing…
Where: La Petite Maison Dubai
Contact: +9714 439 0505

The Maine clam chowder
Go to The Maine for this comforting, creamy broth that smacks of the sea. Served with chips for dipping, it’s one of the dishes they’re best known for.
Where: The Maine, The DoubleTree by Hilton, JBR
Contact: +9714 457 6719

Clam facts:

  • In Eastern North America, the Algonquian tribe used clams to make a sort of shell currency.
  • Ancient Peruvian art by the Moche people depict clams, as they revered the sea and its creatures.
  • In 2015, an American policeman found a clam pearl in his seafood stew. It was sold to a Japanese collector for US$16,500.
  • A Filipino diver discovered the Pearl of Lao Tzu, the largest recorded clam pearl at 24cm in diameter and a weight of 6.4kg.
  • No two giant clams look the same, as each boasts a unique combination of colours. Like a tree, though, the shell’s growth lines reveal their age.

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