Tisreo Sukhem – Clams and Coconut Inspired By Flavors of Goa

Clams sauteed Goan Style
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This is a  dish   that  marries  two of  the abundant ingredients  from the Konkan  coast –  seafood  and  coconut.  Clams  in  their  half  shells  are liberally  coated  with coconut  and  onions.  The dish is  lightly flavored  with  spices and  the  secret  ingredient – kokum.   Typically  they  will serve it  with steamed rice  but  I bet a  bottle  of  the  local  favorite  cashew wine,   Fenni,   will  work   as  well .

Clams sauteed Goan Style

When  we  were  kids  a  visit  to  granny’s  place  was a  must  during the summer   holidays.  She  lived  right next  to the backwaters,  so close  that  the  water   from  the  well  in her  property  was  salty like  sea  water.  It  was  one  of  our  pet  peeves   during  those  days.

As  you can  imagine  this proximity to  sea  meant  an    abundance of  seafood.   Here the  Arabian  ocean  was a  big part of  every day life –  it provided food,  raw  material for  paint,   fertilizer,  and  of  course recreation .

During  one  of  those  summers  my  sis  and  I  came  across a  pile of  clam  shells  about  3  ft  high.  We  were  very little  and  3  feet  was a  big  deal  for us.   Clams or muscles  were  not  part of  our  regular  diet  and till then   we had  only seen  the  meat  off  the   shells.   So once  we  figured  out  what  these  were  it  was a  source  of morbid curiosity.

Our  summer  tradition of  these  visits  to  Nanny did continue   for  few  more years. On  every visit I made it a  point to eyeball the  height of  the pile.  Eventually we  learnt  that  these  shells  were  used  to  make  slaked lime.  Whitewash the  choice  of  outdoor  paint  for  ages as  it  was eco friendly and  has  mild anti bacterial properties.  The  shells were  collected   to   make  lime.   The  magic  of  high heat  turns  the  calcium  rich  shells  into lime (quick lime or  CaO)  which   when  mixed  with   water creates  slaked lime ( Ca(OH)2).  This  slaked  lime  cures  bright  white (whitewash)  after  coming  to  contact  with  CO2.

For  any  of  you  backyard  adventure / diy enthusiasts  here is a  way to make  these  at  home.

Whitewash had a  tendency to rub off  – and  was not a  favorite  of   everyone.  Over  the years modern  paints  that  lasts  for  few  years  and  those  that  were  mold  and  mildew  resistant  became  more  popular  and  these  piles in the  backyards  began  to  shrink  and  eventually disappeared.

Clams sauteed With Coconut

That is  enough  about  the  shells ,   it  is  what  is   inside  that  makes  clammy weather of  monsoons enjoyable.  This   dish – Tisreo  Sokhem –  is a  typical   goan  style  recipe.    Tisreo  in  Konkani means  clams  and    Sukhem means  dry.  Dry in this case is an  adjective  used to  indicate that  it is not a  gravy dish – or  curry.   Dry Clams  is  one  way to  describe  this  dish  –  to be  more  accurate  lets  say – dry sauteed clams with coconut  and onions.

We first tasted this   dish a  few  years back  on a  road  trip to   Goa.  Somewhere along  the  Konkan   coast  we  stopped  for  a  scrumptious  seafood   thali.  There  was  fried  fish,  fish  curry,  prawns  roast , a  dry fish  chutney and clams. Even  for  someone  who  grew  up with seafood  this  was an incredible  experience.

The one  dish   that stood out   was  this – Tisreo Sukhem  or  Tisriya  masala.  the  flavors  were  incredibly fresh and   bright  – just  like  that  sun that   was  shining  on us  that   day !   This is my version of  the  clam  recipe .  It is  an  easy  dish  to make with   fresh  or  frozen clams. If  you use frozen  clam  meat  all  it  takes is 20 minutes  from start to finish!

My preference  here is  fresh clams  in shell. I like  to hold it and eat out of the  shell.   It is  not  just  an  experience   reserved for oysters!

I steam  the  clams    before  stir  frying, but   I have been  told  that  is  not how most  of  Goa  does it.  The  clams  are  cleaned  and  shells  are  pried  open, any unsavory ones   get  discarded in the   process.   Whether  to  remove   the  meat  or  leave  it  in the shells  is  left  to the  cook.  For  some  reason, the  thought of  prying  open the  clams  do not  appeal  to  me,  so I take the  easy  way out.

Steaming clams

This is  how  I do  it  –

  1. Wash the  clams  in  plenty of  water  and  scrub  to  remove  any sand and
  2. Bring at least  4 Cs of  water to  boil  in  pot  with a  steaming  rack set  on it. Keep the  rack a  little  above  the  water level.
  3. Once the  water comes  to a  rolling  boil place a  layer of  clams  on the rack.
  4. Keep the heat high and  steam for 2  minutes or  just  until the  clams  begin top open.
  5. Discard any unopened  ones , reserve  the  rest .
  6. Repeat the  process   with the  remaining  clams.

Why 4  cups  of  water ?  Well  to be honest  there is  no  golden  rule  here.  Make  sure  you have  enough water  so that  the  water temperatures  does  not  go down  drastically as  you place the  clams  in the  steamer.

Why not just  boil  it ?  Well  you can, but  when  you  flash  steam  it  there is  no  loss of  flavors  as  in the case  of  boiling  and  discarding the  cooking  liquid.

Once  the  clams  are  cooked ,   discard  the  empty half  shell  and  toss  the remaining  into the  hot  mix  of  onions and  coconut !   Stir  fry  for a  minutes , cover  and  cook for 5  to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle a  little  garam  masala on top  and  serve!

Goan Style Dry Clams - Sauteed with Coconut and spices

 

There is a  secret  ingredient  here – kokum  or  Garcinia indica.  This  may be  hard  to come  by ,  though  many  Indian   and  international  stores  in the  US   carry it ( or  you  could  try   the  global  delivery giants like   Amazon) .  Kokum  is  the  one that  brings  some  tang  to  this  party , but it  also adds other  subtle  flavors.  So if  you  can  find  kokum  use  it, otherwise  tamarind, lemon juice etc a re  good  substitutes.

 

Goan Style Dry Clam Dish with CoconutHere is  what  I  would  suggest – for  kids  serve  with  rice ,  for  everyone  else  serve  with  their  favorite  non  sugary  beverage …

There  are  many ways  to create the  backyard  summer  feel – and  this  definitely is  one  of  them !

Tisreo Sukhem
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

These are  Goan Style  dry clams.   Fresh  clams  are  sauteed  with  a  mix  of  coconut  onion  and  spices.  Clams  are  coated   in this  mix  and  cooked  just  enough to  drain the  excess  moisture. You end  up  with a  juicy clam  coated  generously with  flavors of  the  tropics. 

Course: Appetizer, Main
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 5 lb Clams In Shell Notes
  • 1 C Grated Coconut Lightly Packed - Fresh or Frozen
  • 2 Onions Medium
  • 1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Green Chili Optional - To Taste
  • 1/4 Tsp Cayenne To Taste
  • 3 Pieces Kokum See Notes
  • 1 Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 Tsp Garam Masala
  • 3/4 Tsp Salt To Taste
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
Instructions
  1. Finely grate the ginger and garlic. Slit the green chilies or for s spicier version chop the onions  fine. Soak the kokum in 1/2 C water. 

    Scrub and  clean  the  clams  thoroughly  under   running  water. 

  2. Fill a large stockpot / steamer   about 1/2 way with water and add salt to it.  Set a   steamer  rack  on top , preferably  above  the  water  level.  The water should be salty like sea water. Bring it to a boil. When it comes to a rolling boil place a  layer of  cleaned clams on the  rack.  Keep the heat on high. In a few minutes (1 to 2 ) the clams should open up. Using a slotted spoon remove the clams and discard the ones that haven't  opened .   Repeat  this  process until all clams  are  used up. 

  3. Split the clam shells and discard the half shell that do not contain the meat.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet . Add the chopped onions with a pinch of salt and cook till it is soft. Add the grated ginger and garlic along with chilies. Cook for 2 minutes or so until the raw smell goes away. Add the coconut and cayenne  and turmeric.  Mix  and  add  the  kokum and 1/4 C water. Reduce the heat and cook for a minute mixing well.  Taste  and  adjust  salt.

  5. Add the clams in their shell and mix very gently . Cover and cook over high  heat for 5 minutes.

  6. Sprinkle   garam  Masala on top  and   serve .

Recipe Notes

If Kokum is not available substitute a small piece of tamarind. Soak in in water as in the recipe.

When neither is  available  sprinkle a  little  lemon juice on top   as  soon as  the  clams  have  finished  cooking.  Adjust  to  taste.  

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Goan Style Sauteed Clams With Coconut


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