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Geoduck Clams

  • Veggo Apr 13, 2010 04:41 PM

I had a fascinating lunch today on the docks in Cortez Village, FL, with a wizened retired geoduck clammer from British Columbia. Some highlights:
Geoduck clams are quite large and burrow in sand flats about 60 feet deep and are harvested by divers who spot their tube protruding above the sand surface and basically blast them out with pressurized water. Divers are supplied with air from surface compressors and hoses, not my idea of safe diving.
The clams fetch $11.50 on the dock (at the present, US and Canadian $ are equal), are shipped alive to Vancouver where they 'recover' in tanks, and then are air-freighted to Hong Kong, where they then again recover, and are shipped to Taiwan where they are sold as delicacies as sashimi and in other preparations. They were, he said, a delicacy in Japan until the recession there 20 years ago, when they were $3.50 at the dock. Wealthy chinese are now the primary market. Karl added that 25 years ago a licencee could harvest 163,000 pounds per year (there is not a closed season) and they fetched $1/lb. then. Licencees now are limited to 60,000 lbs/yr, but at current prices the business is more profitable than during his career. There is no threat to them from pollutants or overharvesting. His nephew runs the business now. When he ate them, he would remove the 'sleeve' , slice them lengthwise, and sautee them in butter and garlic. Anyone familiar with these critters, and can provide more info? Sorry for the 5 year delay, but I met him and his wife only this afternoon.

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  1. I love them , learned to eat in Seattle area. I can get them live in Bay area , I think they were arnd 20/lb some months ago. The thing is you lose 50% after cleaning. You can also bread them and fry or pound and cook like abalone. After you take off sleeve an slit them you still have the mess of gook to take out. Up north toward oregon border and further north you can go clamming for them, not sure when in season any more. Now you have me wanting some ......mei wah has them and I think Ive seen them at 99Ranch.

    4 Replies
    1. re: celeryroot

      Wow, they must be tasty. I have never had one. $20/lb at retail is a fair markup from the dock price he mentioned, and he said the ratio of meat to shell and 'innards' is what you indicate, about half, so the eatin' part is $40 a pound? Karl mentioned abalone as a parallel, which I also have never had. Plus you have to beat the crap out of it, like conch and octopus? Is it THAT good?

      1. re: Veggo

        I love them along with razor clams and abalone. They can be rubbery if cooked too long.
        If you do experiment let me warn you........they are gross looking an can be over 2 pounds each. The shell does not close and this ugly protruding almost black thick thing protrudes , it pulsates. Im sure your friend would laugh but the way I learned to clean is to plunge in boiling water for a few seconds then skin.
        Up north people do dig for them on very low tides.

        1. re: celeryroot

          That protruding thing is what the geoduck uses to dig, and dig they can, incredibly fast. They are quite hard to catch once that "foot" gets going.

          1. re: celeryroot

            All the Travel Channel foodies (also Dirty Jobs) have had their day of geoduck digging when visiting the PNW. They then get a cooking lesson from Xinh Dwelley, the owner of a seafood restaurant in Shelton WA
            http://www.xinhsrestaurant.com/

            One of the Puget Sound seafood companies has figured out how to 'farm' them, starting them in the 'lab' and then planting the juveniles in their leased mudflats. But since they require several years to grow to harvesting size, and the harvesting is labor intensive (digging several feet down in the mud), they will remain expensive.

            I've seen them for $15/lb at Seattle area groceries (99Ranch), but haven't bought one yet.

      2. I've seen them live in the tanks at Richmond Ranch 99. They are not always there.

        1. To those readers who are unfamiliar with this bivalve, it's pronounced "Gooey" Duck.

          1. Had these once in Vancouver ten years ago and they made such an impact Ive always looked for them but you just dont find them on the east coast (and probably for the best). Sad to see they have gotten so expensive in that time period. Has their popularity boomed or something? I remember you could find them in many average chinese restaurants when I was in Vancouver. Even saw a few in tanks in the China Town district.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Insidious Rex

              You can certainly find them in Manhattan; they're lolling about in tanks all over Chinatown.

              1. re: small h

                They have them in Boston's Chinatown as well. Generally served half sashimi style and half fried.

                1. re: joth68

                  You guys are lucky. Cant find them here in the Washington DC area at all. On occasion Ill see the name on temporary menu at a more ambitious chinese restaurant once every few years but it seems they never have them once I actually ask for it. Of course I may be going to the wrong places. If any native Washingtonians know of a source do please post it here. Most of the asian grocery stores Ive checked have no idea what Im talking about when I ask. And youd be lucky to find a hanging duck in our China Town...

                  1. re: Insidious Rex

                    I'd call to make sure they actually have it, but geoduck is listed on the menu for Kushi in DC (see Mirugai)
                    http://washingtondc.menupages.com/res...

                2. re: small h

                  Now that's good to know, as I've always wanted to try it. Aside from sashimi, I hear Geoduck makes a tasty ceviche.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    Yep grew up on the puget sound and it certainly does make a tasty ceviche. Our favorite is with papaya - you wouldn't think it'd go well together but it sure does. http://www.geoduckrecipes.com/recipes...

                3. re: Insidious Rex

                  i remember they were a common sight in Vancouver's Chinatown 20 years ago. they were in tanks and big flowing containers on the pavement! a couple of years ago i saw them in Hong Kong and it suddenly struck me how small they have become these days.
                  [pic in middle of page: http://saudades.proboards.com/index.c...

                  ]

                  this is huge business in the fishery department in WA state and BC. they are shipped by air cargo hence the price. rather gooeyduck than abalone. rather razor clams than gooeyduck.

                  1. re: Pata_Negra

                    Geoduck is still a common sight here in Vancouver. Almost all Asian seafood markets will have it fresh. It is also quite common at Cantonese seafood restaurants and at the better sushi restaurants around town.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Here's a film for TV on harvesting the geoduck clam.
                      http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/cla...

                      1. re: wolfe

                        Here is an informative article about geoduck from 2008 in our local paper (Vancouver Sun):

                        http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/ne...

                        1. re: fmed

                          This jumped out at me.
                          Alaska By several accounts, its export last year of 500,000 pounds of geoduck in a span of a few months wreaked havoc on the market.
                          Can we blame this too on Sarah? ;-)

                4. Are they the ones that sushi bars sell as giant clam? It used to be one of my absolute favorites, but apparently I wasn't alone because suddenly they were not so plentiful, like all the other yummy ocean things like shark, swordfish, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, et cetera that become popular and then fished out. and rare.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: EWSflash

                    No, a giant clam, a very large hard shell Tridacna gigas is the largest living bivalve mollusk, a different creature from the Geoduck. Think underwater adventure movies, where the diver gets his foot caught in a giant clam shell as he's runnig low on air. There are no substantiated cases of this actually happening, but that's a giant clam. Rare and expensive. I saw Andrew Zimmern, of Travel Channel Bizarre Foods fame, enjoying slices of one on the shore of Tahiti or somewhere in the South Pacific.

                    Giant clam photo:

                    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Underwa...

                    Geoduck photo:

                    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=h...

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      Just to give a size perspective on giant clams

                      http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=ht...

                      Moderators: In bushwick's post the URL is not truncated and extends 'out of the box' under IE8 and Chrome.

                      1. re: Paulustrious

                        Whoa, mama, just gorgeous.

                    2. re: EWSflash

                      I'm pretty sure geoduck is used for "giant clam" at sushi bars.

                      1. re: monku

                        Y'know, highly possible, as the giant clam is rare and expensive. But why lie to the costumers, aside from the money making aspect. Well, maybe that's it.

                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                          I don't think it's an attempt to mislead. I think it's just the term some sushi bars decided to use, since geoduck are very big clams. Giant, even. Similarly, "white tuna" isn't really white tuna, it's escolar.

                          1. re: small h

                            Hm- I guess I wasn't aware that the tridacna gigas were even used for food. One of these days I'll have a pair of shells, though.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              And guess what? The chinese consider the tridacna muscle to be an aphrodisiac. Aphrodisiac voodoo in a one-child country should be more frequent late night comedy material, to at least draw attention to unconscionable destruction of living things.

                    3. You can find these things in most Chinese or Asian markets.

                      Sushi restaurants will serve them as sashimi.

                      Chinese restaurants will serve them (raw or cooked); sometimes as a dim sum offering, or during dinner as a braised dish.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        RE- "Chinese restaurants will serve them (raw or cooked); sometimes as a dim sum offering"

                        Not here they don't!

                        Where besides the Pacific Northwest do they live?

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          Geoduck can be found from the southern portions of Alaska all the way south to Baja California.

                      2. When I lived in Seattle 15 years ago I got a permit to collect them. they were pretty good, as others have said, a mess to clean, and you have to be careful cooking them or they get tough.

                        1. With a little Googleing and some direction from posts above, I learned that I was more familiar with geoduck ("gooey ducks") clams than I had perviously been aware. They are the clam used in mirugai, or 'giant clam' nigiri which i like a lot but it is a bit of a premium price item, and seems to be available only about half the time I ask about it in sushi restaurants. The sweet flavor and firm but not rubbery texture are compelling.
                          Bushwickgirl is 100% correct that 'giant clam' on a sushi menu does not refer to the majestic irridescent purple giant clams of the coral sea and south pacific. Which incidentally are fun to play with while diving - a small one less than 2 feet across clams shut quickly at a hint of a shadow over it, even your hand. The larger ones, over 3 feet across, fear nothing. I put my forearm in the siphon hole of a medium one in the Great Barrier Reef to see how much pressure they exert when they close, and it was about equal to a pumped up blood pressure device. Good fun, no casualties.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Veggo

                            I'm fascinated by all this information. I have an entry at http://www.whatamieating.com/geoduck.... with a rather unpalatable picture. I will do some more work on this entry as a result. I always find this on Chowhound. I think I know about something, and then I come here only to find out just how little I know! I also always seem to come on just as a thread is winding up! Very frustrating.

                          2. In a previous life, I used to use "horseneck clam" as the translation for mirugai. Of course, to certain customers, I'd call it "chimpogai".

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ricepad

                              I almost spit out my lunch reading this ...

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Ok, help me out. Chimpogai means nothing to me or Google.

                                1. re: Paulustrious

                                  Try google one more time, but drop the "-gai" suffix (which simply means 'clam').

                            2. Geoduck are mirugai and are certainly served in sushi bars. The neck is sliced and served on nigirizushi, most often pre-cooked, like octopus. They are also served raw as sashimi, but only when super fresh. They are indeed called giant clam. Veggo - walk into any decent sushi bar and ask for mirugai - you'll get your taste of geoduck!

                              Bourdain had a segment on his northwest show where they got the geoducks and cooked them on a rocky shore. In my 5 years in Tacoma in the '70's we had geoduck a lot and it was definitely sold in the Japanese store in Seattle as mirugai. BTW, Bourdain never went diving for the ones he caught - they just dug on the rocky beach.

                              There is also a white geoduck, not quite as big, called namigai, but the standard pacific geoduck is definitely the mirugai.

                              Applehome - http://applegigo.blogspot.com

                              1. Live geoducks are pretty common in the Asian markets here in Arlington, TX, and they run about $25/lb. We have a big Asian (especially Vietnamese) population, and they do show up on the menus of genuine Asian restaurants, although sometimes it's hard to figure out which kind of clam is which from the only sort-of English menu. I've had them in British Columbia too (I grew up there) and they're rich and meaty. I have yet to prepare one myself, though.

                                By most indications, they're sustainably collected and farmed and are an important part of the seafood economy of the Pacific NW, with minimal ecological impact.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: coelacanth

                                  coelacanth; I believe geoducks make up the largest single biomass in all of Puget Sound. So yeah, there're quite a lot of them.