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Aug 2, 2009 01:12 PM

Boston clam chowder with no pork?

I love clam chowder and I'm a fish eating vegetarian. I'm in Boston until Tuesday afternoon and I'd love to have some clam chowder. But from everything I've read (and experienced so far), Boston clam chowder has pork in it. Is there somewhere in Boston that has great, porkless clam chowder? We have a car so location isn't much of an issue. We're staying in Newton. Thanks!

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  1. As far as I know, (and I've lived here most of my life) New England clam chowder traditionally doesn't have pork in it. Some people put bacon in it, but I wouldn't call that the norm. I'm pretty sure you'd be fine at a standard place, like, say, Legal Seafood, and their chowder is pretty good, if a little thick for some tastes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: purple bot

      I'm afraid you're mistaken: just about every traditional New England-style clam chowder recipe begins with rendering salt pork or bacon. Just because there's not visible pieces of pork in the finished product doesn't mean it's not there. (Me, I wouldn't eat a clam chowder that didn't start with pork: it's a key attribute of the dish.)

      FYI: The clam chowder recipe in The New Legal Seafood Cookbook (Broadway Books, 2003) starts with 2 ounces of salt pork.

      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        Wow! Very interesting... you learn something new every day. Good thing I'm not a vegetarian ;-)

      2. re: purple bot

        Just to confirm: salt pork is a foundational ingredient for proper New England clam chowder (bacon is not, though it is sometimes used since it's a lot easier to get in quantity than salt pork used to be; but American hickory-smoked bacon has too assertive a flavor for a proper chowder in these parts). There are clam chowders without pork, but you should assume any clam chowder with New England or similar regional indications in front of it has pork in it unless verified expressly to the contrary.

        The OP might try to find pescatarian versions somewhere, but since I have no knowledge of the provenance of such, since I wouldn't go out of my way for a chowder without the pork.

      3. it ain't chowdah if it ain't got pork.

        1. Turner Fisheries at the Westin Copley. The recipe I have from them has no pork. just butter/flour to make the roux.

          1 Reply
          1. re: trufflehound

            I would always ask, recipes change and restaurant recipes that are made public don't always contain every ingredient. Salt pork is easy for a restaurant to source and it the kind of ingredient that adds depth of flavor but makes some of the public uncomfortable for various reasons. It could be left off a printed recipe that would still work but not be quite the same as you would have if you dined there.


          2. Thanks all! A lot of places I checked out had pork in their chowder, but I found pork-less clam chowder at Jacob Wirth. It was tasty! I appreciate all your advice.

            6 Replies
            1. re: lucylarou

              Champions, at the Copley Marriott is meat-less---and delicious. Their recipe is an award winner. And as a chowder fan, it's my favorite. I believe the attractive flavor in this creation comes from a hint of cummin. Stephanies on Newbury Street said that they no longer put bacon in it so that its safe for "pescaterians."

              1. re: lorpa

                Since the OP left boston over a year ago I'd say you missed the boat

                  1. re: lorpa

                    Cooks gone wild with herbs!!!!!!!!!

                  2. re: lucylarou

                    You must mean Jacob Wirth-less. I haven't had edible food there since 1988. Maybe the original poster is confusing chowder with that other "traditional" Boston dish, baked beans. You can find baked beans in more restaurants in San Diego than Boston.

                    1. re: lucylarou

                      I have had there chowder a few years back, and it was delicous then. Good to see it's still up to snuff, surprising, as it's a bit of a tourist trap (in my opinion only). Hard to believe they don't use some pork actually, as it really was quite good.

                    2. Possibly the lite version at Legal.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: phatchris

                        I know that Genarros in Quincy does not put pork in their chowder DURING LENT - otherwise, they use salt pork (that's what Gerry the owner told me years ago). I only found that out when I was talking to Gerry & mentioned I had to give it up for Lent since he only made chowder on Fridays.