For most foreigners, the first thing we might think of when we see or hear the words Bulhão Pato is probably a delicious dish of clams. However, to the locals and fans of Portuguese literature, it’s actually the last name of a famous poet – Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato. So how did a 19th century poet become better known for clams, than his writing? Well, the local legend suggests a chef rewarded him for a mention in his book, by naming the dish after him. The chef’s name has since been lost, so there’s no way to confirm this. Alternatively, it’s also been suggested that the clams received their name, from being frequently served by Bulhão Pato at his parties to other notable members of the avant-garde community of writers, artists and cultural figures of Costa da Caparica when he settled in the late 19th century.
Anyway, to the dish itself. It’s a deliciously simple affair of fresh steamed clams, and a dressing of garlic, olive oil, coriander, lemon, and white wine. The white wine is optional and, depending who you ask, you’ll be told whether it’s necessary or not. We like to include it, and its always a good excuse to top your glass up while cooking. In 2011, Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato was also finalist in Portugal’s Sete Maravilhas da Gastronomia. Yes, the 7 wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy. It’s a famous, and well-known dish you’ll find offered in most seafood restaurants. Unfortunately, the dish would go on to lose to the culinary greats of the Pastel de Belem, Caldo Verde, and the Portuguese classic of grilled sardines.
Bulhão Pato Clams Recipe:
For this recipe, we used Amêijoa Branca (White Clams), lots of alternatives are available, so pick which looks best or freshest at your local market of choice!
Ingredients (Serves 2):
- 500g Ameijoas Branca
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3tbsp olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Black pepper
- White wine
- Fresh cilantro – roughly chopped
- Fresh bread
- Rinse and wash the clams well. Discarding any opened or broken shells you find. Place them in a food container, then cover them with saltwater or even better – seawater. Let them soak for 2 hours.
- Remove the clams from the water, rinse them thoroughly. If necessary, scrub them using a clean kitchen brush to remove any dirt or impurities.
- Thinly slice the garlic. Place a frying pan (one which has a lid) over low to medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil. Cook the garlic for around 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add in the clams, and a splash of white wine. Cover with the lid, let them cook for around 3 minutes, until the shells open. Discard any shells that remain closed. Season with lemon, salt, black pepper, and fresh cilantro. Serve it with a good crusty bread.
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