An appetizing handbook to Portuguese shellfish

Portuguese people are fixated on shellfish. These mollusks take the lead in two of the most significant recipes of Portuguese cuisine. The first, Bulhão Pato clams, is a straightforward technique that yields delightful outcomes: clams are simmered in olive oil, crushed garlic, and a splash of white wine until the shells unlock and then are garnished with coriander. The second, Alentejo-style pork and clams, marries pork marinated in a pepper sauce called pimentão with clams and fried potatoes.

Among the plethora of shellfish, three shine with their distinct attributes. The Japanese clam, or ruditapes philippinarum, originally from the Pacific, thrives in Portuguese waters. Venerupis corrugata, known as macha, and ruditapes decussatus, or boa (meaning ‘good’ in Portuguese), are two noteworthy local variations.

Aesthetically, each shellfish has its individual allure. The Japanese clam flaunts the most appealing shell. Macha’s shell is elongated with tones of beige, brown, and grey. Boa shellfish, flatter and oval, have autonomous siphons that heighten their capacity to search for nutrients. When the shellfish are in seawater, you can distinguish the boa variety by their method of extending their siphons.

In terms of weight, macha shellfish have the heaviest shells and boa the lightest. A kilogram includes roughly 120 macha, 130 Japanese, and 150 boa shellfish.

Taste-wise, boa shellfish hold the throne. Their potent flavor and agreeable consistency, coupled with the substantial size that fills the shell, make them a prime selection for fine dining. Macha shellfish also occupy their shells but offer a more robust texture and subtle flavor. The Japanese shellfish are smaller and less robust and flavorful.

Each sort of shellfish can have varied tastes depending on their origin in Portugal. And there are other kinds deserving of a try. Exploring this diversity is a pleasurable gastronomic voyage.

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Asraful Shohag

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