Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Per our offer to track down a beloved recipe for you, B.K. In Lahaina wrote in,
“I have been savoring and dreaming of Pineapple Grill’s Steamed Manila Clams ever since I first tried them. I admit, I was apprehensive at first, I normally DO NOT like clams, but just one bite and you’ll see why I converted to craving them “with exceptions.” Pineapple Grill’s dish is one of those exceptions.
Could you ask Chef Bancaco how it’s made and publish it in an article?”
A few phone calls and an email or two later, and Pineapple Grill’s Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco was kind enough to oblige:
Pineapple Grill’s Steamed Manila Clams
2 lbs clams
1 c white wine
2 c clam juice
1 T garlic, minced
1 T shallots, minced
2 T Chinese Black Beans (fermented Soy beans), washed then chopped
¾ stick, butter
1 ea tomato, diced
1 ea Green onion, minced
1 tsp truffle oil
In a large sauté pan on high add a smidge of oil, sauté garlic/shallots, add in clams. Move clams around; add clam juice, white wine, black beans. Cook mixture until all clams are open and liquid is boiling, season with salt and pepper, add butter, tomato, green onion and truffle oil. Serve with toasted baguette of your choice.
The recipe is completely straightforward and rather easy to make. The results are unusual and delicious: most likely, you’ve never had a clam dish quite like this. The broth is savory and rich, deepened by the earthy, even mushroom-y flavor of the fermented soy beans. And yet, the sublime taste of the truffle oil is able to stand up to the other flavor profiles and shine through.
At the same time, if you’ve had a hankering for a good scavenger hunt, this is the recipe for you!
Tracking down the ingredients became almost comical, so in the interest of saving you time, here is where Maui Now finally cornered some of the more elusive elements of the dish.
The clam juice can be found at Safeway in Kahului and Kihei. Foodland in Kahului also carries it for about $1 less per bottle. For this recipe, you’ll need two of them.
The Chinese Black Beans (also known as douchi) are a particularly tricky item to obtain. Unless you read Chinese, plan to Google this on your smart phone and compare the symbols to those on the varying packages. We found them in the Asian food section of the Kahului Foodland.
Truffle oil is available at both Safeway and Whole Foods, but be aware that it’s about $25 for an eight ounce bottle.
Lastly, Manila clams are seasonal…and summer is not their season. Oki’s Seafood Corner in the Kahului Foodland occasionally receives orders of fresh Manila clams: call ahead first. Whole Foods also carries live Little Neck clams from Cedar Key, Florida on a regular basis.
The bottom line? Although a fabulous, simple recipe with delicious results, finding the necessary ingredients is tricky…and expensive. Unless you’re making this for a huge group, plan to serve it weekly, or have other uses for the truffle oil, you may want to go to Pineapple Grill in Kapalua and enjoy Chef Bancaco’s original Steamed Manila Clams appetizer (a comparably affordable $15.95) instead.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line.
Dying to know how a certain dish is made so you can recreate it at home? Send in a request, and we will try to pry the secret out of the chef…and even take a run at cooking it up ourselves. Mahalo. -firstname.lastname@example.org
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