New Recipes

Clams Recipe: Hoy Lai Ped (Spicy Clams in Thai Roasted Chili Paste)

Clam digging excursion in Penang
Clam digging excursion in Penang pictures (7 of 7)

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!

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51 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. kl_changs

    Another blast from the past, Bee!

    I remember we used to “korek siput” (said with Pg Hokkien twang, of course) at Gurney Drive and other beaches, when I was a wee girl. Longggg time ago. Sigh.

    The glee of finding the siput was sheer joy. Which island is this? Will bring my boys there when we return home for holidays.

  2. Yum! After my recent crab fest I wouldn’t mind a change to lala clams! But I think we can get razor clams which may not be the same thing. Vongole I know we can get sometimes, but frozen.

  3. Your clam-digging expedition reminds me of our childhood “picnic” session at Tanjung Bungah beach. I miss it so much! Looking at this mouth-watering dish, I am sure it tastes fantastic with the chili paste. Extra kick! Yummy!!

    • Yes, you are right. When I was little, my parents took me to Tanjung Bungah to “or siput” too. In fact, well into my high schools days, I would still go there to dig clams. Whenever I found one from the sands, I was soooooo happy!

  4. afhstingray

    this post makes me feel really miserable. i grew up in johore bahru, my house is next to the beach, just a 20 min walk from the causeway to singapore. the sea used to be abundant with blue swimmer crabs, mussels, and clams.

    now the crabs are rare, the mussels and clams cant be eaten due to e.coli concerns. even the seabirds have changed after danga bay was built, destroying the marshland.

    it saddens and disgusts me. one ray of hope was the new bridge to singapore, which would allow the water to circulate hopefully reducing the pollution. sigh. wish i could do something about it.

    • Yes, I remember the beach in JB had a lot of mussels called “tua tao.” My grand-uncle and his family lived there, and I was always so happy to go to JB as we could buy the “tua tao” at the beach there, and then cooked at home. Never tried digging them though. I hope your wish will come true and it will be back to the old days.

      • afhstingray

        oh i dint know they were called that. well, at least some places in malaysia remain relatively pristine. where one can still dig up clams and catch fish/crabs.

        back in the early 90’s you could literally fill up a 10kg sack with blue swimmer crabs in just one evening’s work. there was a patch of beach near the lorry customs entrance where u could see lots of the crabs darting around underwater, there were that many of them!

        a real shame about the johore coast, with all the marshland they destroyed.

        • Tell me about it. The beaches in Penang are so polluted and dirty. It wasn’t like that when I was little. The sea water was blue but now it’s mostly yellowish and brownish. So sad.

  5. Bernice

    Mmmmmmm…yumyum! LEKKER ( in Dutch ) which means delicious , going to try this but dont think i can buy this kind of clam over here. I was born in Sungai Petani . Which island off the coast of Penang you had your clam-digging expedition? Would like to try this myself next January.

  6. Tuty

    Lucky you that you did this while in Penang…If you try to dig anything along the US Pacific coast… first, we have to be concerned about the “health” risk due to contamination… second, we need to get a “license” (i.e. pay the Dept of Fish & Game)… third, they have limits on how much we can dig (which probably amounts to a couple of handfuls).

    Bottom line, it seems to be easier to go to the local Asian supermarket and buy live clams :-))

  7. rabeeya

    hi… this recipes looks delicious. unfortunately we dont really get Clams in Pakistan except the frozen clam meat, which is not that great.
    I was wondering, what if i substitute the clams with shrimps? would they not go well with this roasted chilli paste?
    wud love ur opinion on this. thanks!

  8. Trangerine

    Hi Rasa,

    I recently made a clam (manila clams) dish (for the first time) and was very disappointed with the result. After a few minutes in the wok, the clams produced so much water and became salty, without the soy sauce or salt. I made clams with black bean sauce. Any idea why?


  9. What an amazing post! I’ve been following your posts for quiet a while and I really find them interesting. Isn’t it funny when it seems to you that someone else on the planet thinks just like you? Yes, I have a somewhat thinking/writing style just like yours :-)

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