Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 25: Fresh Razor Clams (鮮蟶)

The cooking method of razor clams are similar to that of giant clams. They can also be stir-fried. The household of He Chunchao makes such an incredible tofu in razor clam broth that it can be considered a masterpiece.



Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 24: Cheng Zegong’s Dried Razor Clams (程澤弓蟶乾)

The merchant house of Cheng Zegong produces dried razor clam1, preparing them by soaking them in cold water for a day, boiling for two days, and squeezing out its liquids five times. A one inch long dried item, once rehydrated will be two inches long with the appearance a fresh razor clam, which can then be braised in chicken broth.2 People from Yangzhou try to learn the method of its preparation, but they cannot make it better than Cheng’s household.


1Cheng (蟶) refers to the the razor clams of the genus Solenidae.

2This feels like the preparation of a texture food in its similarity to how deer tendon is prepared, with all the soaking, boiling, squeezing, and flavouring with chicken broth

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 23: Giant Clam (蛼螯)

Slice some pork belly, then simmer them until soft with the right seasonings. Wash the clam and stir-fry with sesame oil, then add the pork slice and its juices to cook. One should add more autumn sauce when cooking so there is sufficient flavour. Tofu can also be added if desired.

Giant clams are produced in Yangzhou. Due to concerns over spoiling, they usually are sold shucked and preserved in lard such that they can endure longer transport.1 The sun-dried item is also very good. When cooked in chicken broth, they are much better than dried razor clams. Giant clams can also be pounded until tender and flat as a pancake, then pan-fried and eaten like a shrimp cake. These are good with seasonings added.


1An interesting method of preservation, similar to ways of making French rillette or English potted meats.

2Che’ao (蛼螯) is likely the giant clams of Genus Tridacna or Hippopus. On top of eaten as a food, the thick shells of these clams are also carved and polished into beads for jewelery and treated as a type of gemstone.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 22: Cockles(蚶)

Cockles can be prepared in three ways. Splash with boiling water and when they are half done1 and remove one shell and marinade them in wine and autumn sauce until they are “drunk”. Or they can be cooked in chicken broth by remove one shell and putting them into the broth. Finally, they can also be shucked and made into geng. It is best to cook them quickly since overcooking will leave them dry and tough. Cockles are produced in Fenghua Prefecture and should be preferred over giant clams and venus clams.


1There is no mention of any heat applied to cook the cockles, but what’s likely happening here is that the cockles are being cooked over a low flame with a few splashes of hot water, a technique known as “men” (悶).

2The character gan (蚶) is used to describe shellfish of the family Arca, which encompasses a whole bunch of clam-like shellfish with ridged shells commonly known as cockles. Some of them, like the popular blood cockle have so much to haemoglobin in their blood that their raw meat is bright red. The etymology of the word is also very interesting. On the left of the character is the radical “chong” (虫), which in modern Chinese would translate as “worm/insect” but the more archaic usage would more accurately translated as modern English term “critter”. The right is “gan” (甘) which mean sweet and pleasant tasting. As such, the character is saying that this is a delicious tasting critter, which it is.

3One usually use the word gai (蓋) for lids, like a pot lid. But in this case, Yuan Mei is referring to the shell of the cockles

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 21: Venus Clams (蛤蜊)

Venus clams1 are very good shucked and stir-fried with garlic chives. They can also be cooked as a soup. Overcooking will make them dry and tough.


1A large family of clam species of the Family Veneridae. The term geli (蛤蜊) usually describes manila clams or Asian hard clams
2This could either mean “cooked in broth” or “cooked as a soup”. Considering that the flavours of clams are easily ruined by the flavours of broths from other ingredients, it’s likely the latter.

Scaleless Aquatic Creatures 20: Steamed Shelled Crab (剝殼蒸蟹)

Shell an entire crab, take its meat and roe, and stuff it inside the carapace shell. Place five or six stuffed crabs on top of raw (chicken) egg and steam. When served at the table, the crab looks whole, less its claws and legs. This feels like a more novel take on stir-fried crab meat.

Officer Yang Lanpo mixes pumpkin1 with crab, which is rather unusual.


1This will give the crab meat an appealing bright orange colour and a somewhat sweeter flavour.