Clams symbolize prosperity in Chinese cuisine, and they are a must-have at Chinese New Year's banquets. Ditto for the scallions, whose hollow shoot represents an open mind. In this recipe, a combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce and black bean sauce creates an intense sensation of umami. (Recipe adapted from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking," Chronicle Books, 2009)
2 quarts water
30 medium-sized clams, scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove sand and grit
For the sauce
2/3 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of white pepper
For the stir-fry
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons peeled and shredded ginger
2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
3 tablespoons black bean sauce
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green scallion tops
1. In a large wok set over high, bring the water to a boil. Add the clams and allow the water to return to a boil. This will take 4 to 5 minutes. The clams will begin to open. Move them about with a spatula to help the process along. As the clams open, remove them to a waiting dish to prevent them from becoming tough. Continue until all of the clams have opened (discard any that do not open). Set the clams aside. Discard the water and wash and dry the wok and spatula and reserve.
2. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, sugar and white pepper. Set aside. Heat the wok over high for 40 seconds. Add the peanut oil and, using the spatula, coat the wok with the oil. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the ginger, garlic and black bean sauce, then stir to mix well for about 1 minute, or until the garlic releases its fragrance.
3. Add the clams and stir to mix for 2 minutes. Make a well in the center of the clams. Stir the sauce, then pour it into the well. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the clams are thoroughly coated with the sauce.
4. Turn off the heat and transfer to a heated dish. Sprinkle with the cilantro and scallions. Makes 4 servings.