When I first saw the amorphous, striped blob at the wharf I had no idea what it was. With raised eyebrows I made my inquiry and was informed it was in Fijian known as vasua, or giant clam. I thought to myself “Score! This is so on.” When I got home, (just to be sure and save myself some potential gastro-intestinal upset), I Googled “Can you eat giant clam?” The answer to my gastronomic delight was…yes. I’m going to just come out and say it, it looks, well…uh hmm, slightly vaginal. But never mind its appearance, its traditional Fijian cuisine and time to experiment.
Going to the local wharf on a mild afternoon when the boats have come in for the day is my bliss. The small fiber glass boats are brightly painted blue and yellow and the air smells of salt, diesel and fish. It’s gritty, a little seedy and in a way reminds me of my carnival days. As I went to buy the giant clam I knelt down to hold it up, inspect and make sure I was getting a good deal. I spoke with the shoeless, tooth missing, Fijian fisherman who caught it and asked the price and about the best way to prepare it. As I was doing this a small crowd began to form around me. Four then five men started making their way to the most unusual sight of a white woman buying something as exotic as giant clam.
I was given at least five methods of preparation but finally decided on one I was comfortable with and could handle solo. I began to chop it into pieces and discarded some oozy, odd looking bits that I decided were not in my best interest to consume.
The flavor of the clam itself is similar to that of a traditional clam but richer. I would say it tastes more like octopus then clam. It is chewy of course and has that signature briny flavor from spending every one of its living moments absorbing the sea. Having it bathe in coconut milk is the utmost of traditional and I enjoy it, but its rich on rich & makes me need to sprawl out belly-up for a Giant nap. “Vakamiti” is a Fijian method of making raw coconut milk with the addition of salt, onion, lemon juice, chilies, tomatoes and cilantro. The onion, cilantro and lemon lighten it up and kick the hell out of your taste buds.
I am thrilled with my experiment gone right! The quantity was far to Giant for me to consume alone so I took the finished product to my Fijian neighbors next door. When I ran into him the following day and asked “Hey, how was the vasua?” He replied, “Oh man, juuuust lovely. You can cook better then one Fijian woman.”
My life is now complete : )
Vasua Vakamiti-Giant Clam in Coconut Milk
2 giant clams, approx 4-5lbs, chopped into 1 inch bite sized pieces
2 cups coconut milk
1 small onion, diced
1 tblsp chilies, diced (or your preference of heat)
2 tblsp cilantro, minced
Juice of 2 lemons
Sea salt to taste
Wash clams thoroughly and chop accordingly. Place in a medium sauce pan and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil cooking for 8-10 minutes. Once cooked, drain and cool.
Combine coconut milk through salt and stir to combine. Add more of any ingredient to your liking, the measurements need not be exact. Pour coconut mixture over cooked giant clam. Serve with boiled cassava.