Littleneck Clams with Wasabi-Mayonnaise Sauce Pair with Saké

This recipe combines the briny flavors of fresh clams with a kick from the wasabi for a simple yet delicious meal.

When Inagiku, one of Manhattan’s pioneering Japanese restaurants, closed in 2009 after a 35-year run at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Chefs Kakusaburo Sakurai and Ryota Kitagawa joined veteran saké and wine sommelier Toshiyuki Koizumi to ignite a new Japanese food revolution. At Wasan, their cozy East Village restaurant, they merge Japanese techniques with Western flair and a reverence for seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Saké-steamed clams are commonplace in Japan, but at Wasan, they’re given a spicy American kick with a creamy wasabi mayonnaise sauce. Clams are at their peak in cold winter months, but mussels or oysters may be substituted in this simple yet impressive recipe.

½ pound littleneck clams
1 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons grated wasabi*
1 tablespoon usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce*
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup saké
1 green onion, chopped

To prepare the clams:

One day in advance, scrub the clams under running water with a brush. Place the clams in a bowl filled with salt water, then soak overnight in the refrigerator to remove any sand.

To prepare the wasabi mayonnaise sauce:

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, wasabi, soy sauce and sugar, and mix well.

To cook the clams:

Drain the clams and place in a medium-sized pot with saké. Cover and steam the clams over high heat until the shells open. Discard any clams that do not open. Add 6 tablespoons of the sauce to the liquid in the pot and mix until smooth. Serve garnished with chopped green onions. Serves 4.

*Grated wasabi in plastic tubes and usukuchi soy sauce can be purchased at Japanese or Asian food stores, but increasingly are found in mainstream supermarkets as well.

Saké Recommendation:

To complement the flavors of the sweet seafood and rich mayonnaise (and in support of breweries still struggling in the aftermath of last year’s tragic earthquake and tsunami), Koizumi recommends a coastal saké from Miyagi in Northern Japan. Creamy and soft on the palate, the Urakasumi Junmai boasts a warm, grainy richness that expands in the mouth.

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