Stir-fried clams smothered in a  bean sauce creates something that’s spicy, salty, and sweet, all at once, from just a handful of simple Asian ingredients. Something truly magnificent on the table in just 25 minutes. –Angie Zoobkoff


First, let’s say what it’s not: Bean sauce isn’t black bean sauce. In most Asian markets, you’ll find both bean sauce (aka ground bean sauce) and black bean sauce. They’re not interchangeable. Both are made from soybeans but each has a totally different taste. Bean sauce–which is what you’ll need for this recipe–is thick, aromatic, and made from soybeans, salt, wheat flour, sugar, salt, and sesame seed oil. My favorite brand is Koon Chun, which is generally sold only in Chinese markets but is also available on Amazon. If you can’t find bean sauce, you can use chili bean sauce, but it has the addition of chilies and spices. Lee Kum Kee is a good brand. Black bean sauce, on the other hand, is made from soybeans which have been salted and dried. The dried soybeans are rinsed to remove most of the salt and mashed with garlic and soy sauce. I never buy jarred black bean sauce because making it from scratch is so easy. The flavor is far superior, and it doesn’t contain all the preservatives and artificial ingredients found in the commercial variety.  

Bowl of stir-fried clams with chopped shallots, garlic, ginger, and chili flakes on bamboo

Stir-Fried Clams

5 / 3 votes
These stir-fried clams, a traditional Chinese recipe, are cooked in a wok or skillet with clam juice, bean sauce, soy sauce, shallots, garlic, ginger, and red-pepper flakes. Easy and quick, this comes together in 30 minutes.
David Leite
Servings1 to 2 servings
Calories296 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • 1 1/2 dozen littleneck clams
  • 1/3 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock or clam juice
  • 1 tablespoon jarred Asian bean sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced Thai chile pepper, with seeds, or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions


  • Clean the clams: Thoroughly rinse the clams in several changes of cold water, discarding any open clams. Scrub the shells with a stiff brush to remove grit and rinse well. Drain the clams in a colander, shaking out the excess water and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Mix the sauce: In a small bowl combine the broth, bean sauce, and soy sauce.
  • Heat the wok and stir-fry the aromatics: Set a 14-inch (35-cm) flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact, about 30 seconds. Carefully swirl in the oil, then add the shallots, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir-fry the clams: Add the clams and stir-fry 1 minute. Sprinkle in the chile or pepper flakes and stir-fry until well combined, about 30 seconds. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok, cover, and cook for 4 minutes, stirring every minute.
  • Reduce the sauce: Uncover and stir-fry until the shells are fully open, about 1 minute more. Transfer any opened clams to a platter and continue stir-frying, uncovered, over high heat until all the shells have opened and the broth mixture has reduced to a saucy consistency, 1 to 2 minutes. Discard any unopened clams.
  • Garnish and serve the clams: Stir in the scallions and pour the sauce over the clams.
Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge Cookbook

Adapted From

Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 296 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 3 gFat: 29 gSaturated Fat: 23 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gCholesterol: 1 mgSodium: 1014 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 Grace Young. Photo © 2010 Steven Mark Needham. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

A quick and flavor packed dish! At our house we cook clams often and I am always looking for a new and different way to serve them. The depth of flavor is complex for such a quick to cook dish. This dish makes an outstanding quick weeknight dinner served over some basmati rice. I served this as a component of Asian family style dinner that included a chicken dish, a lo mein and stir-fried broccoli. Prep can be done several hours in advance and then the stir-fry done before serving.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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