Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When life gives you mollusks

You know it's going to be a great day when, as you enter the grocery store, a well-coiffed Filipino woman is singing karaoke in the parking lot.....and when you exit, fancily dressed Filipino couples are dancing the polka on a large wooden stage.

Welcome to Uwajimaya, the delicious, delectable, fun, quirky, and deliriously exotic Asian market near Portland. There is almost always some kind of excitement going on outside. Today is "Philippines Day," but we skip the festivities to go inside and hunt down the two items on our list: giant clams and celery root.

The place is a true market. There are piles of vegetables and tropical fruits, many of which I've never seen before. There are boxes of tamarinds and packages of chicken feet, tankfuls of live crabs, containers of freshly made seaweed salad, and all sorts of spices and sauces and savory exotic ingredients. And there are geoducks (pronounced gooeyduck). Big ones. They are the most phallic of creatures, these mollusks with double-siphoning necks so long that they cannot retract them into their shells.

You know it's going to be a great day when your very own Naked Chef/Survivorman tells the white-coated fish monger behind the counter, "No thanks, don't bother cleaning it. I want to kill it and clean it myself. I need to learn how to do this."

Back at the ranch, it's party time. Time to play with your meat. Time to slip the big boy out of its skin. (Rinse the neck under hot water to remove the tough outer skin, which just slips right off). Time to sacrifice for stew, pull the slick, bulbous guts from the meaty neck, count the rings on the shell to determine its age (about 30) feel a little bad for a minute for eating this amazing creature that can live up to 140 years. At last, time to slice and dice and kiss and canoodle and cook that baby into the finest of chowders. Here's a recipe, but note that a combination of clam juice and turkey stock works well and that you may want to thicken with a butter-flour roux or some cornstarch if you prefer a thicker chowder.

You know it's going to be a good day when you feel the crunch of oyster crackers in your teeth, taste the perfection of fresh clam on your tongue, melt at the sensation of velvety, buttery, creamy broth on your lips, all while formulating your first word, chowder steam rising above the Scrabble board.

Game on.

And the next morning, when there is nothing left of that beast but a bulge in your belly, you know just how great a day it really was. Because there are pictures to prove it.


BadAssKona said...

And that clam died happy!!

Gina Marie said...

She most certainly did!

Craig Sorensen said...

Sounds like a wonderful market, and a wonderful meal!

Thanks for sharing the adventure!

Erobintica said...

Sounds wonderful. No geoducks out thisaway - but now I'va hankerin for chowda

Gina Marie said...

Hi Craig & Robin,

Goodness all the way. Come west and we'll all go digging! Road trip!

Robin, I thought of you while making this "chowda." Ironically, the clam juice wasn't from around here. On the can it said, "fresh from the docks of Maine."

Nikki Magennis said...

Those things! I saw them here

Jeremy Edwards said...

[Looking at picture up top] Wow, those are giant clams!

I like how the gooeys appear to be outfitted with condoms. What a convenient animal!

And now, an on-topic quote from my story "Check and Mate":

“Your guy’s got muscles,” Livia breathed with a slight slur, making the last word a wet, molluscular mussssels.

Gina Marie said...

Nikki! Hi! That's um, hilarious and fascinating. I can't say we did much to gain the poor creature's trust. Pretty much photographed it and then ripped its guts out while talking pirate talk (loudly). Geoducks are video game animals? Hmmmmm. More research needed.

Gina Marie said...

Hi Jeremy,

They are convenient animals and very well prepared, I might add. My guy even had a couple of spare siphon wrappers in his back pocket. Molluskular Mussssels! Yeah!

Donna said...

Gina Marie,

This is the sexiest piece of prose I've read in a long time. Clam juice all over my chair ;-). I'm dying to know what happens on Japan Day!

Gina Marie said...

Hi Donna! Thanks for popping over -- in and under -- the clamshell. So happy to have inspired some juiciness. Japan Day! I don't see anything like that coming up on the calendar but I did just discover that Uwajimaya has a recipe resource: Uwajimaya recipes organized by ethnic style

Alana said...

I think I'm lost. I thought I was arriving at one blog but seem to have landed on someone else's. I don't recognize the name.

With that said, holy crap! I've been staring at these pictures a long while. Wow. I mean, Holy Crap! Seriously, those are clams?

Awesome post. Holy crap!


Gina Marie said...

Hi Alana! You're not lost. I am found. Partly inspired by you and your brave, bold ways (in addition to Craig, Shanna, Donna & others) I decided to shake the pseudonym loose (Kirsten Monroe) and go with my actual name --first and middle at least, for now. Baby steps! So thank you Ms. Alana, for your inspiration.

YES! Those are clams, I mean, CLAMS! Glad you're ogling them. They were born to be ogled. They died to be ogled. And that thing looks so enormous next to my head. Made my eyes bulge and my lips buzz, I'm tellin' ya!

Marina said...

Damn! That's some sexy mollusk! Just - - - wow!

EllaRegina said...

Whoa! Surf and turf!

My verification word: hommur


Anonymous said...

hmmm...i love cooking...and i love eating..i do love sea food too..and i would love to give those clams a try ..but i m not sure if i would like to prepare them myself..lol..might give me a chill of castration angst ( i know/fear, thats no word but my english is so poor and i dont know the right word),..but still..just reading your day discribtion makes me wanna jump up and run to my seafood dealer..:-)))


Alana said...


This is incredible news. You're amazing.