Continued from the front page.
The other task I had before beginning cooking was to prepare the authors’ seasoned red pepper paste, a heady mixture of coarse red pepper flakes, Korean red pepper paste, finely minced garlic and fresh ginger, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fresh lemon juice, and brown sugar. On the minus side, I didn’t have any Korean red pepper paste (I’ve since checked it out and wasn’t impressed with the ingredients: Chinese broad bean sauce with chili seems a better riff on the idea.) On the plus side, I have a big square of Korean brown sugar, which isn’t as sweet and has much more flavor than the ordinary kind and it worked superbly here. I made enough of this for two meals, since whenever I do something new I like to remake it a few nights later to work in whatever changes come to mind the first time around.
One issue that I needed to resolve before preparing the dish was the source of the clams. Since I live in Massachusetts, fresh clams are available at local markets, but issues of price and spoilage keep them from being a regular part of my cooking. I’m no fan of canned clams either, which was why I was pleased to discover whole frozen lyrate asiatic hard clams (Meretrix lyrata), imported from Vietnam, at our local Asian market. The package pictured below cost $3.50 and contained about sixteen clams, very pretty, and very tasty, considering. Discovering them will lead, I think, to some further exploring of Asian clam dishes, something I’ve been eager to do.
Now we’re ready to rock — and to part ways with Mses. Chung and Samuels. For one thing, I’m going to add a mess of Chinese mustard greens to give the dish more substance. I’ve also decided to poach the eggs ahead of time, for reasons that will become apparent when I assemble the dish. To do this poaching, I rub a little toasted sesame oil inside a ziplock sandwich bag, then break two eggs into it. Then I zip the bag closed and poach it in the simmering stock, keeping the temperature at 145°F, hot enough to cook the whites while keeping the yolks soft and runny. The bag has to be turned several times to ensure that the whites are cooked and the yolks heated through, about ten minutes in all. Here are the eggs poached and waiting.