Clams take so well to briny, spicy XO sauce, a Hong Kong invention that’ll quickly become your new favorite pantry item. Executing this dish requires only a little attention, so those clams don’t overcook and lose their plump juicy meat. As they bubble away, take frequent peeks into the pot, with a bowl and tongs at the ready, to pluck out any that have popped open. Add them back just before you serve.
Before you cook, make sure the clams you bought have tightly closed shells or shells that close with a gentle tap against the counter. Discard any that remain open or any with cracked shells. I’ve found that wild clams need a little more cleaning than farmed clams. Soak them in cold water for about 20 minutes so they eject any sand from inside. Farmed or wild, clams should be scrubbed and rinsed to dislodge any grit on the shells.
- Find a pot (or deep skillet with a lid) wide enough so the clams fit in two layers at most. This will help them cook more evenly.
- Set a medium mixing bowl next to the stove. Heat the oil in the pot over high heat until shimmery. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is light golden and everything smells great, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the clams, quickly followed by the coconut aminos, then immediately stir to coat the clams with the aromatics and oil.
- Cover the pot and keep cooking over high heat for about 5 minutes, peeking under the lid every couple of minutes or so and using tongs to transfer any clams that pop open to the mixing bowl.
- After 5 minutes, turn off the heat. Discard any clams that haven’t opened. Add the clams in the bowl back to the pot. Add the XO sauce and vinegar and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle on the cilantro and serve right away.
- Put the shrimp in a small mixing bowl, add enough hot water to cover, and soak the shrimp for 20 minutes. Drain well, then finely chop.
- Combine the shrimp, oil, tomatoes, garlic, fresh and dried chiles, shallot, ginger, and salt in a large, heavy skillet and stir well. Set the skillet over medium heat and let the oil heat up. Once it reaches a rapid bubble as the moisture escapes the aromatics (you’ll also see a little white foam on the surface), start stirring oc- casionally and cook until the ingredients have softened and everything turns brown a bit at the edges, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let anything get too dark.
- Stir in the coconut aminos and honey, lower the heat to medium-low, and keep cooking until the foam disap- pears and the ingredients below the oil are golden brown, shriveled, and a little chewy, about 15 minutes more.
- Let the sauce cool (it’ll turn a mahogany color when it does). It keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.