(THE NEW PAPER) - This dish of spicy clams I ate last month at a seafood restaurant at Melaka's Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir bowled me over so much that I badgered the restaurant's co-owner into sharing his recipe with me.
Mr Bunny Rodrigues, 45, co-owner and chef of Restoran 1 Terraces, was generous enough to show me how to prepare his signature Portuguese Baked Clams.
He belongs to the Kristang community, Eurasians of Portuguese descent and learnt to cook Kristang food from his mother.
No sugar is used in his recipe as the spice paste gets a natural sweetness from the garlic and clams.
The same paste is used for the restaurant's signature Portuguese Baked Fish too.
The turmeric leaf lends an incredible spicy fragrance to the dish, but it is not easily available in local wet markets (although I have seen it sold at Geylang Serai Market).
I tried out Mr Rodrigues' recipe twice and, both times, the results were satisfying.
If you are heading for Melaka, drop in for a seaside dinner at the Portuguese Settlement.
Be warned that with 10 restaurants in a row competing for customers, the touting can get aggressive.
Restoran 1 Terraces is nearest to the carpark and also known as Stall No. 1. The address is Gerai No. 1, Medan Selera, Kampung Portugis Melaka. It is open from 3.30 to 10pm (Wednesdays to Mondays) and is closed on Tuesdays.
SPICY BAKED CLAMS
50g buah keras (candlenuts)
1 lemongrass stalk, use 5cm of the white root part (discard the two outer layers)
50g dried chilli, de-stemmed and boiled until softened
300g red onion
¼ daun kunyit (fresh turmeric leaf)
4 to 5 kaffir lime leaves, de-stemmed
3 tsp belacan powder or a 3cm portion of untoasted belacan
6 Tbs of cooking oil
30g salt (adjust to your preference)
1kg of live clams, de-gritted and cleaned
1 large sheet of aluminium foil (around 45cm by 70cm)
1 piece of old banana leaf (around A4 size)
2 limes, halved
1. Grind the candlenuts, lemongrass, dried chilli, red onion, garlic, turmeric and kaffir lime leaves and belacan into a paste. If you are using a blender, you can add a little water or oil to help the blades turn more smoothly.
2. Heat a non-stick pan and add 4 Tbs of cooking oil. Once the oil is hot, add the spice paste and fry over low heat for 10 minutes and season with salt. Continue frying for another five to 10 minutes until the colour deepens and the oil rises to the surface.
3. Turn off the heat, transfer paste into a bowl and allow it to cool.
4. Remove the clams from the fridge half an hour before cooking.
5. Place the aluminium sheet on a flat surface. Place the banana leaf in the centre. Take half of the spice paste and spread it on the banana leaf. Drizzle on the remaining 2 Tbs of oil.
6. Place the clams on the banana leaf and spoon over the remaining spice paste. Fold over the four sides of the foil to form a parcel.
7. Heat a hot plate over your stove on medium heat. Place the foil parcel on the hot plate. Cook for about 10 minutes. Clams should be fully opened when cooked. Discard those that remain closed.
8. Serve immediately. Squeeze the lime over the dish before eating.
Serves four to six