Clams in Soy Sauce and Sichuan Pepper Oil Broth


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Clams in a Soy Sauce and Sichuan Pepper Oil Broth

Chengdu Clams

Fongchong and I have had a variation on this modern Sichuan clam dish twice in Chengdu. I can’t remember exactly what they were called, but they both had clams and a crunchy green veg counterpoint (once cucumber and once celtuce), and a simple but distinctly flavored sauce in which the high notes were soy sauce and green Sichuan pepper oil.

Both times we ordered it from the picture menu and were slightly surprised when it arrived. The first time, in summer 2018, it surprised us by being a cold dish, as in chilled. The second time, in summer 2019, it surprised us simply by how much we loved it. It was meant as a small starter before a giant bowl of suancaiyu (fish and pickled-greens stew), but it stole the show, as we fought over the last clams, and became one of the most memorable dishes of the summer.

2018 Chengdu clam experience: A cold dish with cucumber and a bit of vinegar
2019 Chengdu clam experience: A hot dish with celtuce and chili

It’s taken me a while to get the recipe to where we love it, but I finally got Fongchong’s enthusiastic approval (“not as salty as those other times”), and it’s really very quick and simple. There are few ingredients, so their quality is key, starting with fresh claims very well cleaned. I like to soak them in a few changes of water for an hour or so.

Soy sauce and Sichuan pepper oil for Sichuan clams
A dish with few ingredients is where you want to pull out the good stuff: Yaomazi green Sichuan pepper oil and handmade Zhongba soy sauce

Because this dish is supposed to be brothy, the clams won’t make quite enough juice, and you’ll need to supplement with bottled clam juice. There is no shame in this, as even Serious Eats says bottled clam juice is legit. Then all you is need really high quality soy sauce—may I suggest Sichuan’s best—and premium green Sichuan pepper oil, whose citrusy, floral taste adds that something special that really makes the dish. Do not omit it. Finally, the barely-cooked cucumber or celtuce gives a bit of cooling crunch, and some fresh chili adds a little heat.

Fifteen minutes later and you’ll be fighting over clams in soy sauce.

Clams in a Soy Sauce and Sichuan Pepper Oil Broth
The cucumber (or celtuce) adds a crunchy counterpoint to the clams and sops up that amazing sauce

For more traditional Sichuan seafood recipes, check out these recipes for Dry-Braised Shrimp ft. Crispy Pork (Ganshaoxia, 干烧虾) or a special-occasion ready Good-Luck Fish Head Recipe (Kaimenhong Yutou, 开门红鱼头). If fusion is up your alley, check out our Mala Crawfish Boil (Mala Xiaolongxia, 麻辣小龙虾)!

Clams in Soy Sauce and Sichuan Pepper Oil Broth

By: Taylor Holliday | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 2 dozen littleneck or manila clams
  • English cucumber or Chinese celtuce stalk
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • ¼ cup Shaoxing wine
  • cup bottled clam juice
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese light soy sauce (preferably Zhongba)
  • 1 tablespoon green Sichuan pepper oil
  • 1 fresh Thai chili, thinly sliced and mostly deseeded


  • Soak claims in several changes of cold water for at least 30 minutes.
  • Partially peel cucumber in "tiger" stripes, scoop out seeds with spoon, and cut into ¼-inch dice. Alternatively, fully peel celtuce stalk and cut into ¼-inch dice.
  • Bring Shaoxing wine, ginger and ⅓ cup water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Add clams, cover pot, and allow to steam over medium heat about 2 minutes. Check clams and remove any that have opened. Cover again and steam another 1 or 2 minutes until all clams have opened. Remove clams to a serving bowl.
  • Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the clam juice into a bowl or measuring cup. You should have nearly a cup of broth. Add this back to sauce pan along with bottled clam juice, soy sauce and 4 tablespoons water. Bring to a simmer. Taste for saltiness, and if too salty add a bit more water. Add Sichuan pepper oil and mix well.
  • Add diced cucumber or celtuce to the simmering broth and cook for about 30 seconds. Pour sauce over clams, and garnish with chili rings.

Tried this recipe?

About Taylor Holliday

The Mala Market all began when Taylor, a former journalist, created this blog as a place to document her adventures learning to cook Sichuan food for Fongchong, her recently adopted 11-year-old daughter. They discovered through the years that the secret to making food that tastes like it would in China is using the same ingredients that are used in China. The mother-daughter team eventually began visiting Sichuan’s factories and farms together and, in 2016, opened The Mala Market, America’s source for Sichuan heritage brands and Chinese pantry essentials.

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  1. I am violently allergic to clams. Do you think it would be worth trying the dish with chicken, or is the clam flavor definitive of the dish?

    1. Hi Alexander, thanks for reading! We all go to different lengths for good food but in this case, I’m glad you’re exercising caution! While clams do appear to be the star of this dish, I’d still encourage you to try it with chicken or mussels (unless you’re also allergic to other shellfish). The green Sichuan pepper oil/tengjiao you is a unique flavor best paired with fish, veggies or other white meat, but whatever you do, know that it’s often served cool like so because cooking with it will also cook off its light aroma. If you add it to a hot dish, add it at the end of cooking. Sorry for the late reply. Let us know if you end up trying!