One early morning in January when I was home in Penang, my brother, sister, nephew, our maid and I set off to a clam-digging expedition in a little island off the coast of Penang. In less than two hours, we dug two buckets full of big, fat, and succulent fresh clams, after we got both our hands and feet wet, not to mention some mud on my sister’s hair. It was one of the most exciting, fun-filled, and fruitful excursions nonetheless. We had so much fun!
As soon as we went home, my brother cooked up a big batch of hoy lai ped, or fried clams with roasted chili paste, a Thai recipe that he had learned from his Thai friend. Our family and all the kids gathered together and savored the bounty with great victory–nothing tastes quite as good as food caught with our own hands.
Hoy lai ped literally means spicy clams in Thai. It’s a popular clam recipe in Thailand. Thailand is blessed with abundant seafood and clams are hugely popular. Hoy lai ped is very easy to prepare and you need only a few key ingredients: Thai roasted chili paste or “nam prik pao,” fresh basil leaves, and bird’s eye chilies. It has become one of my favorite clam recipes because of its vibrant flavors: fiery hot and exuberantly briny with a robust minty note from the basil leaves.
Now back in the US, I often make hoy lai ped. While there is no clam digging, I can always get fresh Manila clams from Asian supermarkets. My brother’s friend also bought me a big tin of nam prik pao (Thai roasted chili paste) which is now an essential ingredient in my cooking repertoire.
Here is my recipe for hoy lai ped or spicy clams in Thai roasted chili paste. Try it out, it’s seriously delicious!