From Lisbon with Love: Recreating the Famous Portuguese Clams or Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

These Portuguese clams in white wine sauce are one of the most ubiquitous dishes when visiting Portugal, especially along the coastal areas. These succulent clams are cooked in the simplest sauce of dry white wine, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and butter and cook in less than 10 minutes. Pairthem with bread and you have the makings of a wonderful meal reminiscent of holidays in Lisbon and the Algarve in Portugal. If you love clams and pipis this is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato was one of my favourite dishes when we travelled through Portugal. Amêijoas means clams and the rest of the name actually comes from a famous 19th century Portuguese poet Raimundo Bulhão Pato who hailed from Lisbon. He was known as a bon vivant and gourmand and it is said that this is how he loved to eat his clams. These are also called clams with garlic and coriander. You'll find this dish at any Cervejara in Lisbon.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

One of my favourite versions of these were at a Cervejara in Lisbon called Ramiro, also a favourite restaurant of the late, great Anthony Bourdain. They specialise in seafood and although I'd eaten plenty already that day, the clams were so delicious, so full of flavour that they found a place in my food memory. I couldn't stop thinking about them even many years later.

Tips For Making Portuguese Clams

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

1 - You can use vongole clams or pipis for this dish. These are available all year around but seem to be particularly abundant around the warmer months.

2 - To clean live clams or pipis, place them in a bowl of cold, salted water for 3 hours so that they spit out the sand and grit. Use a solution of 30g/1oz of salt per 1 litre/1 quart of water. Drain in a colander. The ones that I bought in a vacuum pack didn't seem to have any sand or grit in them.

3 - Some recipes use butter, others only use olive oil. I love the flavour when you add butter and it makes it even better when dunking bread in it.

4 - Cook clams or pipis until they open. Discard any ones closed shells. Out of 1 kilo/2.2lbs of them, I only ended up discarding 4 of them.

5 - I have made this dish around a dozen times which is why there are a couple of sets of photos for this dish. While clams aren't cheap they're such a pleasure to eat that its during long weekends or when we have guests over that I make this dish. Everyone loves them and they're so easy that you can easily prep everything beforehand and then just take 10 minutes to cook them and serve them straight away. Mr NQN pours everyone's drinks while I start the clams and by the time everyone has settled in, the clams are ready and the bread has been warmed.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

When I made these I had the clams at Cervejara Ramiro in mind. I loved our meal at that restaurant and I still remember over indulging slightly on Sapateira stuffed crab, Carabineiros or scarlet prawns, these clams and goose barnacles. I decided to make these on Good Friday (not because we are religious, just because I had everything but the clams) so the day before on Thursday I rang the fishmonger that afternoon around 5pm to see if they had any pipis or vongole left. The man was in a hurry and told me hurriedly that they had plenty but when I asked him what time he was closing and he said, "You have to come down here before 6pm, after that we'll be closed." I thought that that seemed early. The busiest shop before Christmas and Good Friday is a fishmonger but we hurried on down to buy the clams.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

Breathlessly I looked around and couldn't see any clams on display so I asked. It turned out that they did not have a lot of clams or pipis like he said but the woman behind the counter managed to put together enough of a mix of clams and pipis so that I almost had 900g or 2lbs of clams. So if you look closely at the pics you'll see both vongole and pipis in the mixture. Vongole have more pronounced ridges on the shells while pipis are smoother. They were both delicious to eat and because the woman felt bad offered me a discount for them which was nice.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

I think this is as close as I can come to a signature dish because sometimes you need a dish that a) is easy b) can be made in less than 10 minutes c) reminds you of being on holidays and d) people think that you've spent a lot of time making.

So tell me Dear Reader, do you have a signature dish? Have you had these Portuguese clams?

Portuguese Clams (Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato)

Did you make this recipe? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Rated 5 out of 5 by 1 lovely reader.

An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2 people as a main

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup/125ml/4flozs dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup/60ml/2flozs water
  • 50g/1.7ozs butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1kg/2.2lbs vongole clams or pippies, drained
  • Wedges of lemon and bread to serve

To clean live clams, place them in a bowl of cold, salted water for 3 hours so that they spit out the sand and grit. Use a solution of 30g/1oz of salt per 1 litre/1 quart of water. Drain in a colander.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

Step 1 - First heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the white wine and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the butter, half the coriander leaves, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Taste the sauce for seasoning.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

Step 2 - Add the clams or pippies and cook for 5 minutes until they open up tossing them gently in the sauce. Place the clams on a platter discarding any that haven't opened. Then pour over the sauce gently making sure to leave behind any last bits that might have sand or grit in them. Sprinkle the remaining coriander and serve with bread.

Portuguese Vongole Clams Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato

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