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Dec 22, 2009 05:09 AM

Looking for fried (whole belly) clams...

After a 4 year stint in Boston, we're more than happy to call the PNW our home. But my wife and I are craving fried whole belly clams, which was huge in New England. Despite being a seafood city, we can't find this kind of food anywhere in Seattle. Anyone have any suggestions in the city or the region?

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  1. Always one of the things I get when I head back East.

    I feel like I got some once as part of one of those big fried baskets that seafood places do, but I cannot remember where that might have been... (Salty's? Salmon House? Elliot's?)

    It very well may have been in Boston when I was there hanging out with friends from Seattle (thus screwing with my intertwined memories)

    1. I live in Portland, OR - transplanted from NYC, and I also miss whole belly clams. Last time I had them I was in CT.

      Haven't ever seen them around these parts, sorry. But, as a quick stand in, may I suggest fried oysters? Our oysters are amazing, even better than what's on the east coast, IMO.

      Also, not the same, but another local tasty item is fried razor clams.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JillO

        JillO-- true. Fried oysters are a great fix. I'm really surprised I can't find whole bellies anywhere here.

        1. re: skibum400

          I give up.
          Is "whole belly" a preparation?; a species?

          1. re: mrnelso

            Whole belly fried clams are just that--clams whose "bellies" have not been removed before frying. Most places that serve "fried clams" are serving only a part of the clam; the clams' bellies have been stripped away. In New England, however, the "fried clams" you're used to eating in Seattle are called "clam strips," while clams whose bellies are intact are called "whole bellies" or simply "fried clams."

            Whole belly clams are vastly superior to clam strips--they have a nuttiness and depth of flavor that can hardly be described. Clam strips--the stuff you get in Seattle--have comparatively little flavor and texture.

            To answer the original poster's question, I haven't seen any whole bellies around Seattle. I suspect that if they are here it'd be an upscale restaurant's take on them--i.e., pricey, small portions, and perhaps with some kind of haute spin on the original. I'd love to be wrong, though.

            1. re: Earl of Sandwich

              Clam strips are usually cut up large tough clams (like east coast quahogs) that are breaded and fried. Those large tough clams are usually chopped up small and used for chowders, so IMO clam strips are not the best way to enjoy fried clams.

              Whole belly clams are smaller whole clams with their bellies intact. If you are lucky, the clams are fairly young and small - the larger they are, the more texture and stronger flavors you get from the belly contents. But they are always more tender and more flavorful than clam strips...and rarely seen outside of New England.

              It really is similar to eating a fried oyster (especially the stronger flavored east coast Virginica oysters), which is why I suggested them as a substitution that is easy to find in the PNW.

            2. re: mrnelso

              You guys are making me drool. Thanks, everyone. Particularly Earl and JillO. If there are any investors out there, can I yell out a request to fund a hot truck for fried clams? Seattle, uhm, *I* am in need of one. I'm dyin' here. Might have to fly back to Boston for a fix... here was my fave.

        2. I would also like to know what are full belley Clams? Is it the way they are prepared or is it a large belly clam like a Razor clam?

          1. That would be what we call here in the Northwest as steamer clams. they are whole clams steamed in there own juice just until they pop open. And you are right they are so much better tham clam strips. I do not ect clam strips but I can put a whole kettle of steamer clams away. I will have to try the fried version.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hickdolphin

              See, and that's the funny thing - lots of folks think whole belly clams are gross because ew, you're eating old stomach contents and they can be strongly flavored...yet folks eat steamers and raw clams on the half shell which always include the stomach of the clam. Go figure.

              skibum400, if you start that truck, drive it on down to Portland! ;o)

              Last place I had them back east was Lenny & Joe's in Madison, CT. See the fabulousness:

              1. re: JillO

                Glad to learn I have a friend down South ;)

            2. I'm still confused. So you could make these out of the kind of clams we have here, like Manilas? You just fry the whole thing? Or do you need a different type of clam that we don't grow here?

              I didn't even know clams had "bellies"! I get the Manilas from Taylor and the clam just looks like one blobby thing, I don't see parts.

              3 Replies
              1. re: christy319

                I'm starting to wonder if I should give it a try.

                The Manila clams seem smaller than what was fried on the East Coast. As steamers, Manila clams are still just as tasty, though. But I don't think they'll have that creamy buttery salty sea taste. You combine that flavor/texture with a fresh-fried extra crispy breading, and you get a combo that makes New England fried clams so divine.

                1. re: skibum400

                  If Manilas were good as fried clams, there'd probably be several clam shacks in Seattle. And, yes, Manilas are smaller than Ipswich.

                  If you haven't already, you should try pan fried razor clams from the Wash. coast when they're in season. They're completely different than New England fried clams, but they're really good.

                2. re: christy319

                  The bellies are easier to see on the bigger clams. When I was growing up on Whidbey Island, we went clam digging most days. We used the little clams, bellies and all, for steamers and we removed the bellies of the larger clams before using in chowder, etc.