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Apr 13, 2010 04:41 PM

Geoduck Clams

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

            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)

                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.

                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:


                  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: wolfe

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


                        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:


                    Geoduck photo:


                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      Just to give a size perspective on giant clams


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

                    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.