How to Make Fat Rice’s “Portuguese” Barbecued Clams
This killer one-pot dish makes for a fiery dinner
Fat Rice. Ever heard of it?
That perpetually packed Logan Square eatery making the delicious but lesser-known cuisine of Macau more approachable?
Turns out there’s another spot in town for high-quality Macanese grub: your kitchen.
Out next week, The Adventures of Fat Rice — penned by chefs and co-owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo along with Hugh Amano, the restaurant’s opening sous-chef — will give home cooks a chance to recreate some of the restaurant’s most famous dishes while offering a deep dive into the bold and varied flavors of Macau, a narrow peninsula and two islands best known nowadays as the “Vegas of China.”
Photo: Abraham Colon and Adrienne Lo
Of course, it wasn’t always as such. What makes Macau’s identity complex is its colonial roots as a thriving port during its time as a territory in the Portuguese empire. So, while you can say Macanese cuisine is a hybrid of Chinese and Portuguese, keep in mind the travelers who passed through — coming from places like India, Malaysia and Africa — certainly had to fill their bellies, and by doing so, unwittingly left their mark.
The Adventures of Fat Rice is a personal look into Conlon (who is of Portuguese descent) and Lo’s (who is of Chinese descent) own journey in uncovering and decoding the authentic flavors of Macau, from their early travels and research to opening Fat Rice in 2012. The result is a cookbook that shies away from watered-down recipes. This is a well-researched, well-intentioned compendium of indelible knowledge, made easier to understand with comic book-style instructions by illustrator Sarah Becan.
As for the recipe below, it’s Conlon and Lo’s version of “beautiful clams we found at the night market on Jonker Street in Malacca.” Malacca as in Malaysia. This dish is simple enough to pull off any night of the week, with most of the work going down as prep for the spicy and slightly sour sambal sauce. It’s worth finding the ingredients and making a batch, trust. You’ll wanna put it on everything.
“Portuguese” Barbecued Clams
Serves 2 as a main, 4 in a multi-dish meal
3 tablespoons Assam Sambal (recipe follows)
2 pounds of Manila, or littleneck clams, purged
½ English cucumber, seeds removed and cut into bite-sized chunks
Small handful of laksa leaves (also known as rau ram or Vietnamese coriander)
Combine the Assam Sambal and clams in a covered wok or heavy pot with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Steam until all the clams are just opened.
Discard any clams that don’t open. Transfer the clams to serving bowl and reduce the sauce until thick and chunky, 2 to 3 minutes; pour over the clams. Garnish with the cucumber and lasks leaves and serve.
To make the Assam Sambal …
½ cup dried red chillies
1 cup of water
¼ cup of peanut oil
1 tablespoon Balichão [Ed. note: or substitute any shrimp paste]
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
½ cup Tamarind Extract
2 ounces palm sugar
2 tablespoons Filipino cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spread the dried red chillies on a baking pan roast until darkly roasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Bring the water to a boil in a wok and pour just enough water over the chillies to cover them. Soak for 30 minutes, then puree in a blender or food processor using all the soaking liquid. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the Balichao and break up using a wooden spoon, cooking until the Balichao turns deep purple in color, about 1 minute. Add the onions and stir, cooking until they begin to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved chilli puree and tomato paste and slowly work into the oil, letting the pastes bloom and the oil separate out, essentially frying the pastes, about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar and stir, cooking until the sugar is dissolved, about 60 seconds. Add the can vinegar and salt, stir to combine, and simmer until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat and cool. Store refrigerated for up to 1 month is not using immediately.
From The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes From the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau, out October 25th.