Keeler likes serving clams in the springtime. “The water is still cool so the clams become meatier, plumper, and less salty,” he says. “When I picture myself eating clams, I’m outside, sitting around a picnic table with friends.” The flavors in this dish are bold but well-balanced. Chiles bring the heat, black bean paste adds salty umami, and peas offer color and sweetness.
- Make the clams: Warm a large, covered pot on high heat for 3 minutes. The pot should be big enough that all clams can fit in an even layer across the bottom. When pan is hot, add clams and sake andcover. After about 5 minutes, clams will begin to open. Remove clams as they open so they don’t overcook as the remainder finish steaming.
- After all clams are open and removed from pot, continue reducing the liquid in pan until 1 cup remains. Stir 3 to 6 large tablespoons of chile paste into reduced liquid, depending on desired heat level. As soon as sauce is bubbling, add clams back to pan and toss to coat. Pour clam and chile mixtureinto a large, rimmed platter.
- Toss peas, pea shoots, mint, salt, and chiles with lemon juice and oil just to coat, then scatter over clams.
For chile paste:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chiles on a sheet tray and toast in oven for 30 seconds or just until aromatic. Remove from oven, place in a glass or metal bowl, and cover with water. Allow chiles to soak for 1 hour or until pliable. In a large, thick-bottomed pot, bring water to a simmer, add cane sugar, and stir to dissolve. Add tamarind and black bean pastes, shallots, garlic, and soaked chiles. Cook on low heat for 1 hour until reduced and thickened to a ketchup-like consistency. Turn off heat, add vinegar, and let cool slightly. Move contents to a blender. Blend on high until a smooth paste forms.