Dungeness Crab, Clams and Mussels in Tomato and Tamarind Sauce

| January 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

When hunger for seafood strikes, sometimes it’s hard to make decisions when there is a bounty of fish and shellfish available. Do we feel crabby? Clammy perhaps? Or do we go for mussels? When faced with tough choices sometimes it’s best to cave in and go for the gusto. Yes, Dungeness crab, Manila clams AND mussels, please.

The fishmonger answers with only a raised brow as he dutifully picks out a large male Dungeness, lounging lazily in a salt-water tank, turns him upside-down to make sure he’s still frisky before shaking the water out of him and dumping him in a brown sack and then heading for the next tank and the scooping up a dozen Manila clams and dumping them into a plastic bag. The mussels are chilling out on a bed of ice. Tap, tap, tap, on the shells to make sure they’re still alive and away they go in another bag.

Back at home, I dump out the ice tray from our spare fridge into the sink in the second kitchen, our converted laundry room off the main kitchen that houses our antique Chambers range as well as assorted cookware hanging from a chrome cage of Metro shelving, lugged twice across the country with our moves. And then into the icy sink goes the crab, clams and mussels until I’m ready to deal with them.

My mother, eyes it all with delight and wonders how I’m going to fix the bounty of seafood. An experiment awaits.

One of the oddities of my childhood in Thailand is my fondness for all things tart: green mango, green papaya, pomelo, rose apple, starfruit, plum mango, kaffir limes. Mom says this is her fault. While she was pregnant with me she had horrible morning sickness and the only thing she could eat were sour fruits. But my favorite is tamarind. The flesh of these pods are a combination of tongue-curling tartness, cheek-pinching saltiness, and lip-smacking sweetness, all rolled into one. And so tonight, tamarind paste will play center stage for dinner, with a little help from a can of chopped stewed tomatoes and sugar. A sweet, sour and salty sauce to dress all that seafood.

Dungeness crab, clams and mussels sauteed with a tangy sauce of tamarind paste and tomatoes.

Dungeness Crab, Clams and Mussels in Tomato and Tamarind Sauce

Serves 4


  1. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) oil
  2. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) chopped garlic
  3. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) tamarind paste (available at Asian food stores and at many natural-food stores)
  4. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) sugar
  5. 1 14.5 oz. (411 gr.) can of diced tomatoes with green chilies
  6. 1 cup (240 ml.) water
  7. 1 large live Dungeness crab, hacked in half with a cleaver, carapace removed and then remove the guts and rinse the cavity, and then hack the remaining body halves and legs in half again.
  8. 12 clams, washed
  9. 12 mussels, washed, beards removed


  • In a large deep-sided pan with lid, heat oil over high heat and sauté garlic.
  • When golden, add tamarind paste, sugar, can of tomatoes, water and stir until sauce comes to a boil. Then add crabs and stir so that sauce completely coats crab pieces, cover with lid and cook for 2 minutes, stir cover with lid again and cook another 2 minutes.
  • Add clams and mussels, stirring to coat them with the sauce, cover with lid and cook until all clams and mussels have opened. Discard any that do not.
  • Serve garnished with some chopped parsley if desired and with steamed white rice or sourdough bread.


— Vic

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Category: Seafood

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

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