Snout otter clam or snout otter shell (Lutraria rhynchaena, Vietnamese: tu hài, or sometimes ốc vòi voi) is a genus of medium-sized marine bivalve mollusks or clams. A snout otter clam has a similiar look to a Pacific geoduck (Panopea generosa), but much smaller in size. Both are highly prized in Vietnam, though the latter are much more expensive because it’s often imported from Canada. The Vietnamese often mistake the two, so in some texts, snout otter clam (tu hài) is mistranslated as geoduck. Snout otter clams are farm-raised in undersea hanging baskets in some provinces like Quảng Ninh, Hải Phòng (North) and Khánh Hòa (Central).
The Vietnamese cooking method for snout otter clams is pretty much like scallops. They are often grilled with a variety of sauces to choose (say 25!).
Spring onion oil sauce or paste is common in Vietnamese cuisine. Traditionally, it’s made of chopped spring onion leaves in hot melted lard. Modern cooks often make this sauce with vegetable oil instead.
Step by step method
Cleaning the otter shells
Use a knife to make a straight line cut lengthwise on the clam body. Use a spoon to scrape off all the dirt and internal organs. Rinse thoroughly under running tap water to remove soil and sand, then drain in a basket.
Melting lard and cracklings
Dry-render fat in a saucepan on high heat. Stir evenly until the fat is melted and the cracklings/ scratchings are formed.
Making spring onion oil sauce/paste
In a bowl, add chopped spring onion leaves, cracklings, and pour the hot melting lard onto the bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon of MSG and 1 teaspoon of granule seasoning. Mix well.
Grilling the clams
In an aluminum foil, add 1 clam topped with spring onion paste and cracklings. Wrap it up and the the same with the rest, Grill for about 10 mins. Alternately, grill without using foils.
Garnishing and dipping sauce
Usually, grilled clams with spring onion oil are garnished with crushed roasted peanuts. But cracklings are used in this recipe, so you can skip the nuts. Extra dipping sauce can be mustard/wasabi/green chilli pepper sauce, or spicy diluted fish sauce.
Tips & variations
The pork fat should be wiped off excess water to avoid splattering in a hot pan.
To make the clams less messy while grilling, you can wrap them in tin foils.
Vietnamese cuisine is the method of cooking, the principle of mixing spices and the general dining habits of all Vietnamese people in Vietnam. With a unique geography, climate, and cultural exchange, the cuisine of Vietnam is extremely diverse and rich. The characteristics of Vietnamese cuisine is the focus on the freshness, so Vietnamese dishes are generally perceived as delicious and healthy.