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Big belly fried clams

A post on the New England board, got me wondering. I've grown up on fried clams, from Maine and Massachusetts. I never heard the term "big belly" clams, untl fairly recently. Clam strips, as something you'd eat on purpose, didn't exist when I was a kid. I know you can order "clam strips" which is just a part of the clam, sans its stomach. I prefer the whole clam. So, does "big belly" refer to just whole clams, as opposed to "no belly", i.e. clam strips? Or does it refer to the size of the whole clam that's being used?

Here's the post, that got me going, by Karl S.:
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. It refers to the size of the belly of the whole clam. At the Clambox in Essex you can order whole clams, or whole clams - big belly.

    The Boston Chowhounds have done several clam crawls comparing all whole fried clams along route 1 and Clambox won.

    5 Replies
    1. re: joypirate

      Well, thanks! In that case, I guess you can call me a just plain whole clam kinda gal!

      1. re: Pat Hammond

        Don't knock the big bellies until you've tried them- some people hate them but you never know until you try them!

        1. re: Chris VR

          Oh, I've had plenty of them. I just always referred to them as big clams. The bigger the clam, the bigger the belly, right? I like them fine, but my preference is for a more medium sized clam, same goes for mussels and oysters.

          1. re: Pat Hammond

            Hmm, I dont thing big bellies automatically mean big clams. In fact I think most I've had have been medium-to-small.

            1. re: Pat Hammond

              Once again, I'm w/ you on this. We took a trip to the east coast summer before last and I dubbed it "Clamalot", because we ate a whole lot of 'em. But the burning question is "What do you dip your fried clams in"? I'm a tartar sauce gal.

      2. I haven't got an answer your question just reminded me of the clams we used to get when I was a kid and we went to Maine. We'd stop at the first stand we encountered. The clams I remember were barely battered and sweet. And when you bit into them you'd get a gush of clam that was a little liquid and soooo much more than just meat.

        I haven't had clams like that in 30 years.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rainey

          Ugh....you guys are seriously making my mouth water. I'm thinking back to fried clams and fried oysters my husband and I had in Maine this summer. I can almost taste that sweet, briny, juiciness if I close my eyes real tight.

        2. Clam strips, by the way, aren't clams without bellies at all, but rather, quahogs, cut into slices, and fried...

          9 Replies
          1. re: galleygirl

            Something I learned since I posted, is that the clams I'm used to are soft-shell steamer type clams that are fried. The big belly clams that have been talked about here are evidently the Ipswich clams. Whole different animal!

            Interesting about the clam strips. I don't think I've ever had them.

            1. re: Pat Hammond

              Traditional "whole" fried clams, steamer clams, and Ipswich clams are all the same species, Mya arenaria. I'm not familiar with the "big-belly" phenomenon, but suspect that it just refers to clams of the same species selected for having bigger "bellies" (they're not bellies, by the way, they're mostly gonad - you probably didn't want to know that)). I believe that clam strips are cut from surf clams, Spisula solidissima, not quahogs (which are Mercenaria mercenaria). Yeah, I'm a marine biologist - in case you were wondering.

              1. re: FlyFish

                I'm permanently confused. No, I had never heard about "big bellies" either. But no matter, I love clams any way you cook them.

                And this for Bryan, whose posts I can't direcly reply to: Me too on the tartar sauce, with lots of lemon juice. But if the clams are really good I usually forget to dunk them!

                Worked at a H.J. in the late 50's, and ate my salary in clam rolls! pat

                1. re: FlyFish

                  Clam gonads?! I can't wait to share this info the next time I'm eating clams with some friends. I love this site!

                  I think I've been misinforming all of my friends about clam strips. I always thought they were that skinny, long thing that sticks out of a type of clam I've eaten out in Long Island; when they're served as steamers, that part's usually covered in a gritty, black skin. I'm most definitely a clam novice.

                  1. re: chowmeow

                    That's exactly the part I have associated with "clam strips". But the more I think about it, the sillier it seems to maul a perfectly good clam to get that little piece!

                2. re: Pat Hammond

                  If you ever had fried clams at a Howard Johnsons, in days of old, then you've had them.

                  1. re: bryan

                    You must be dating yourself. The fried clams I remember from HJ (and this is from the days of old) were not strips, although I was too young to remember if they were true belly clams. I would ransom my kingdom (such at is) for fried whole clams in Los Angeles, without having to go to the fish market and shucking the clams myself.

                      1. re: TomSwift

                        Sids Seafood in Canogo Park -- corner of Roscoe and Topanga has them. They fly the Ipswich clams in daily. Call first to make sure they have them. Very yummy.

                3. Growing up my mother used to buy frozen Carnation clam strips and I'd cook them up. First time in Cape Cod inadvertently ordered the whole fried clams an fell in love. Now I look down upn and giggle when I see people eat just the strips. What are they thinking?

                  I did not know that the strips were probably quahogs strips and breaded & fried. Always find great info onthis site.

                  BTW - my wife just said "bellies are gross." It's tough sometimes.

                  1. In NY the Howard Johnson type was just strips. If yr lucky to find Ipswich, them's the belly clams! Steamers here in Bklyn and LI mean Piss clams, not merely steamed Little Necks like they do it on the Jersey Shore (tho I'd never throw them outta bed neither!).

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: noisejoke

                      I'll only eat steamers if they're soft shell clams (Ipswich etc...) and these are available on the Jersey shore (one good place is Wharfside in Point Pleasant, they have them year 'round), I very rarely see hard shells sold as steamers in NJ.

                      1. re: steinpilz

                        steamed ipswich makes sense, duh. the shells were way thinner than the usual clam bar stuff. But, if they had the Ipswich to steam, why weren't they frying them? I went to Seaside Beach for the 2nd summer ever a few weeks ago and they didn't have fried bellys. I could've sworn I had 'em fried 2 years ago.

                        1. re: noisejoke

                          I finally figured out what I was talking about - I'm looking for what I grew up knowing as Steamers, which were only Piss Clams. At Seaside Beach they were soft shell, but not Piss clams. Where's our Marine Biologist?

                          1. re: noisejoke

                            It seems that the soft shell clam goes by lots of aliases, and as our marine biologist, Flyfish, remarked, they're all the same species, mya arenaria. I found this while trying to figure all of this out for myself:

                            http://www.ocean.udel.edu/mas/seafood...