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Clams in Ginger and Chilli

I had forgotten how much I loved this stir fried clam with ginger and chilli that my mum used to make until I made it for lunch today. The type of clams we used to eat were called la la locally. They are oblong in shape and the shells quite fine and brittle. When you go to a seafood restaurant in Malaysia, they always have la la, cooked in many different ways. It always felt like such a treat when mum cooked la la at home, and fun too since we could eat with our fingers.

This morning I walked past the fish shop on the way to the market and the clams called out to me. Well, cockles technically. Not all clams are created equal. All cockles are clams but not all clams are cockles. They are, however, both mollusks that are nutrient-rich, high in protein and iron. Clams have smooth shells and breed in salt and fresh waters. Cockles, on the other hand, have ribbed shells that are generally heart shaped and are found only in saltwater.

So as I was saying, I picked up some cockles (coques in French) and cooked them the way my mum used to. Utterly delicious; sweet and packed with flavour and so quick and easy to make! I served it up with some steamed rice, and the memories came flooding back. And they were good ones.

Cockles with Ginger and Chilli

serves 4

Soak time 15 mins/Prep Time 5 mins/Cook Time 5 mins


  • 800 gms cockles

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 15 gm fresh ginger, peeled and julienned

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

  • half red chilli, sliced into thin rings (whole chilli if you prefer more spicy)

  • 1tbsp cooking oil

  • 1 1/2 tsp light soya sauce

  • 1 tsp oyster sauce (optional)

  • White pepper

  • 1 tsp corn flour mixed with 1/2 cup water


  1. Soak cockles in a large bowl of salted water for at least 15 and up till 30 minutes. Stir them around to loosen any sand or dirt. Discard any that floats.

  2. Drain, rinse and repeat several times until the water is clear. If a clam shell is open, tap to see if it closes. Discard if it stays open.

  3. Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a pan. Add ginger, then garlic. Stir fry till golden.

  4. Add the washed and drained cockles, soya sauce and the oyster sauce if using. Mix well. Season with pepper.

  5. Add the sliced chilli, stir through. Cover and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

  6. Remove cover, add the cornflour slurry. Mix well, and allow to thicken slightly, about 2 more minutes.

  7. Serve hot.


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