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Jul 21, 2005 10:14 AM

Whole belly clams vs. strips

  • j

On this board and the other New England-based gourmet food board, most vocal clam lovers post strong sentiments for the inferiority of strips. They urge strip lovers to drop them like a bad habit and enjoy juicy whole belly clams. What are the real reasons why you're not a true clam lover if you don't eat whole bellies? And are there any valid reasons* why some people might want to stay with strips or are they all classless, Friendly diners?

* As someone has already mentioned here, you never know what might be waiting for you inside the bottom feeder's belly.

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  1. t

    I'm a "strip-girl" myself, but I'd venture to say that tried and true clam-lovers would attest to the real intensity of flavor that comes from eating the whole clam and nothin' but the clam. Strips are really just a slight preview of what's to come; "clams-lite" some might say.
    I'm cool with that as I'm not so into that gooey intensity and the possibility of "belly surprise" but hey, that's just me.

    14 Replies
    1. re: twentyoystahs

      I've yet to try a clam belly.
      What is the "gooey" surprise everyone is talking about? What does it look like?

      1. re: Prav

        Try one, that will be explanation enough.

        They aren't "bad", in fact, many would say they are quinticentially New England; a true taste o' the sea and all that jazz. It's just that they are sort of an acquired taste, and you can't be the type of person who is squeamish when it comes to texture, etc.


        1. re: twentyoystahs

          I'm more of a strip person myself. My mom absolutely loves the whole bellied clams, so I took her up to Farnham's a few weeks ago. She got the fried clams an I got the scallops. I tried a few of the whole clams, and while didn't mind the texture or the little pop of the belly, I just can't acquire a taste for them (and I've tried several times). The belly, to me, has a sort of sweet/bitter taste. Definitley differnt from a clam strip. I think it's something that needs to be tried before you make up your mind.

          1. re: Ali G

            So I'm definitely gonna take the plunge and get fried clam bellies. Anyone have any comments about me getting them at Kelly's Landing in South Boston (around the corner from my office) ?

            1. re: Prav

              clam strips and full clams with bellies are not the same thing.Whole clams are the sweet ones and the strips are the big deep see cohogs cut into strips.
              2 different things all together.

              1. re: unruly

                Yes, that was the point of this entire thread.

                1. re: unruly

                  Wow. I didn't know strips were made out of those giant clams! Makes sense I guess. Just didn't think of it...

                2. re: Prav

                  Fried clams at Kelly's Landing are actually really, really good. They supposedly use the same batter recipe that the old Kelly's on the beach used to use. I thought they were top notch. Of course, fried stuff is all I would order there.

            2. re: Prav

              Trick is never look at what's inside. Just pop the whole thing in your mouth and chew. The flavor is so intense as opposed to the fried rubber bands flavorings.

            3. re: twentyoystahs

              I just love any kind of seafood, cooked any way, but only whole clams, is there a price differance in whole or strips? most places I order fied clams don't have strips clams.

              1. re: frygirl

                Whole clams are always more expensive. Strips are made from big ole Quahogs that are not really good for much else other then chowder.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  I thought clam strips were most often made from razor clams, since they're huge they can slice them into many strips?

                  Man, I miss those big belly clams from Clam Box.

                  Bellies (fried or steamed) taste like the sea, making you feel like you're standing on a whaler, with a beard, in a cable-knit sweater, drinking bourbon from a coffee mug. Strips are fine, but just sort of taste like fried carnival food.

                  1. re: joypirate

                    Razor clams are way too pricey and hard to get. Big ole quahogs is where the strips come from.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      I think a lot of strips come from big surf clams, which actually look like giant steamers, the soft-shell clams used for fried whole-belly clams, rather than hard shell clams (called topnecks or littlenecks, cherrystones, or quahogs, depending on their size).

                      Good fried whole-belly clams are one of New England's greatest treats. Clam strips are a bar snack.

            4. As with many foods, it's a matter of personal taste. For me, the strips are eaten more for texture than taste, kind of like eating squid (which I love). It's the bellies that have that briny "taste o'the sea" (as twentyoystahs said), just like oysters but in a more elemental way. Why would I just eat the strips, when I can have the whole experience with the whole clams? It would be like eating stewed belly pork without the layers of fat and skin, like some health-conscious people do. Defeats the whole purpose, IMO.

              1. How many folks here have had steamers at Essex Seafood or the Clam Box or Farnhams? What's the difference between eating the whole steamed clam and eating one that's been battered and fried? Why the sudden squeamishness over part of the clam?

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowcat

                  Exactly. What's all the fuss? Try it, you'll like it. Or you wont. We're not talking about head cheese here. Mmmmmmm... head cheese.

                2. Feel like I am settling into the role of curmudgeon here on chowhound.

                  Silly chowhound, strips are for kids. Not real fried clams at all. Might as well just stick with calamari.

                  Don't get me wrong, if they have really huge bellies and are really mucky, that's a tad much even for me. But ones with nice small to medium bellies define fried clam.

                  The strips are not even worth the calories of consuming them if you ask me. I would actually rather have good calamari or fish and chips. Strips you are really just in it for the breading and the fry job.

                  But really good clams with the bellies...

                  1. From conversations from customers around the country, some have had bad experiences biting into the belly. When clams are spawning the bellies get large and you may even find some green stuff in it.It's harmless of course.Clam strips, remember are sliced from giant see clams. They are not the necks from a steamers clam like some think.