Clam Salad with Nam Pla Prik. Clams. Fish sauce. Chilies.
A simple (lazy) Thai inspired non-chowder.
During most of my kitchen antics, I rarely decant the huge bottle of Three Crabs fish sauce securely fastened (trust me) to the bottom shelf of the refrigerator door. It seems that when I do pop the top, the pungent funk of fermented anchovies unleashes a primal call to the neighborhood cats. It's strong stuff.
Undeterred by the call of the wild, I mixed 1 tablespoon of palm sugar with 1/4 cup warm water. When the sugar dissolved, I added 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves. In lieu of fresh Thai chilies (prik), I stained the dressing with a fat squirt of Sriracha chili sauce. After sliding the dressing aside to infuse the flavors, I sliced market radishes into half-moons before slivering a small carrot, cucumber, red bell pepper, tomato, and purple candy onion into delicate bite-sized pieces.
I warmed a large cast iron skillet over a medium high flame, added 1 tablespoon of butter and a drizzle of olive oil. When the butter started to foam, I tossed minced garlic into the skillet. Just before the garlic browned, I hit the skillet with 1 cup of white wine, tumbled the clams into the garlic bath, covered the skillet, and let the clams steam until they opened, about 5 minutes.
While the clams were still warm, I dropped them onto a bed of baby arugula, purple basil, and orange mint. After scattering the vegetables over the top, I drizzled everything with the nam pla prik, purposely filling each clam shell to the brim.
Unconventional and unexpected.
Sure, the plump little steamers packed a sweet briny punch, the vegetables added crunch, and the greens provided an herbal fresh leafy bed for the salad. Blah. Blah. Blah. Anything could have been in that bowl. It was all about the aromatic lip-burning nam pla prik. Stinging heat. Sour lime. Stinky sauce. Biting garlic. Palm sugar. Balance. Talk about a sensory overload. When combined, the marriage morphed the disparate ingredients into a slurpable salty, spicy, garlicky, sweet, and sour umami bomb.
With the last clam dispatched, I pushed the other stuff to the side and drank the dressing.
Every last potent drop.