Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 as a one-dish meal; 4 as part of a larger meal
2 pounds Manila clams (40 to 48 clams)
2 scant tablespoons fermented black beans
Chubby 1-inch section of ginger, peeled and finely julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
1 large green onion
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1. Rinse the clams in cool water and drain well, then place the clams in a bowl. Rinse the black beans under cool water for 15 to 20 seconds, drain, then mash with the flat side of a knife blade and place in a second bowl. Set the clams and beans near the stove.
2. In a small bowl, combine the ginger, garlic and chile flakes to use as aromatics. Chop the white part of the green onion and add it to the bowl of aromatics. Thinly cut the green onion tops on a steep diagonal into 2-inch-long pieces, and put them into another small bowl to use as garnish. Combine the water and rice wine and put by the stove along with the aromatics and garnish.
3. Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven or similar large pot or wok over high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the aromatics. Stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, clams and black beans. Cook, stirring constantly, until the clam shells open slightly to reveal a sliver of flesh, about 2 minutes. Add the water and wine, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to finish cooking the clams and marry the flavors.
4. Uncover and use a slotted spoon to transfer the opened clams to a bowl. A few unopened clams usually linger. Replace the lid and cook for 30 to 60 seconds longer, until they open. If they don't, discard them.
5. Taste and add pinches of sugar if the sauce is too salty or boil it down for 1 minute to concentrate the flavor. Regardless, stir the cornstarch mixture, then add to the bubbly liquid. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds to lightly thicken. Add back the clams, give everything a big stir to coat, then transfer to a big shallow bowl. Crown with the green onion garnish and serve.