Sake Steamed Clams

Sake Steamed Clams

Clams are my idea of fast food! While you can have them on the table in 10 minutes, they are still fancy enough for company. They look so elegant and dramatic but are surprisingly simple. My Sake Steamed Clams create a delicate broth that doesn’t overpower their delicious brininess. This three ingredient dish is perfect as a light starter to a meal. Although I’m kind of a purist, slurping up the clams with just a squeeze of lemon, I think many people would appreciate some crusty bread to mop up the sauce, or enjoy them as a  fabulous sauce over pasta as well.

I know home cooks can find cooking with shellfish to be a little intimidating, but it couldn’t be easier. I’m going to walk you through the process so you can purchase, prepare, and serve clams with confidence.

sake steamed clams ingredients

Happy as a Clam

While there are several varieties of clams, I use manila in this recipe. They are a small, sweet variety from the Pacific. I love how plump and tender they are. Plus they open very quickly compared to many other hard shelled clams. But if they aren’t available in your area, littleneck or razor clams will work beautifully too.

Generally, smaller clams tend to be both sweeter and less chewy, so I would stay away from the larger ones meant for chowders or stuffing. This dish is all about the flavor and texture of the clam with really no masking of any shortcomings, so purchase the best clams you can source.

The first thing you need to do when you bring the clams home is to give them a thorough rinse to remove dirt and sand from their shells. Then they need a salt water soak. This will help to expel any sand or grit inside the clam. Be sure to make the water as salty as the ocean, as this will help acclimate the clams and encourage them to open a bit and spit out the grit. You can leave them in this bath in the fridge overnight, or on the counter if you are going to prepare them that evening. They should not be left in the same water longer than 12 hours as the oxygen will deplete and the clams will suffocate.

sake steamed clams cleaning

After their bath, the clams will need a good rinsing to remove all that salt.

sake steamed clams rinse


Time to Steam

Once all that salt is rinsed off the clams, they are ready to be steamed- which means you are just 10 minutes from dinner time! And this part couldn’t be easier. Gently add the clams to a large saucepan (gently because you don’t want the shells to crack) and add the sake. I usually choose an inexpensive one for these sake steamed clams, the kind that comes in little 6 ounce bottles.

Next cover the pan, and start to cook for a few minutes. Then you will peek to to see which clams have opened. Now gently stir, and cover again. When it’s been about 6 minutes total, all the clams should have opened. Some clams, like little necks, take a little longer to open.  But if you have any that have stubbornly stayed closed, long after the others have popped open, remove and discard because they may have been dead when purchased, and may not be safe to eat.

sake clams steaming

Once the clams are opened, it’s time to stir in the butter until it melts into the broth. Then arrange on a platter and garnish with lemon and parsley. Now you have a gorgeous dish that yields impressive flavor. Serve with Pork Gyoza and Ginger Saketinis for a festive cocktail dinner. That’s a thing, right? If not, it definitely should be.

sake steamed clams closeup

We would love to hear if you make our buttery, delicious Sake Steamed Clams.  So leave us a comment below, and tag us in your instagram pics @funkyasiankitchen, show us the goods!



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sake steamed clams

Sake Steamed Clams

  • Author: Funky Asian Kitchen
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Main
  • Cuisine: Pan-Asian


  • 3 pounds manila clams
  • Water and salt for soaking
  • 6 ounces sake 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Lemons for serving
  • Parsley sprigs for garnish


  1. Before you do anything, make sure that your clams are washed thoroughly. Then soak the clams in salt water for several hours to purge them of any grit/sand.* 
  2. Rinse the clams thoroughly to remove any salt.
  3. Put the clams in a medium size pot that will fit all of them. Add the sake. Cover with a lid and cook the clams on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. You should see the clams starting to open. Use a slotted spoon or ladle to stir the clams.
  4. Cover again with the lid and continue cooking for several minutes until all of the clams are open. 
  5. Add the butter to the juices in the pot and stir until melted. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the clams onto a serving platter.  
  6. Pour the sauce over the clams. Garnish with the lemons and parsley sprigs. Serve immediately.


*I find it’s unnecessary to use cornmeal, flour, etc. Just cover the clams with fresh salt water by one inch. The salt water should taste like the ocean (about 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water) and stir to dissolve the salt. I leave the clams in a cool spot in my kitchen.

You can also put them in the fridge if you plan on eating the clams the next day. Do not soak your clams for longer than half a day in the fridge as they can die from lack of oxygen if left for too long.

Keywords: sake, clams

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