Are Farmed Clams The Taste Of The Future?
Richard Ekkebus reveals a secretive laboratory off the coast of Fukuoka that may change the game forever
Currently, Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental is the only restaurant in the world to use clams from a very specific location in Fukuoka, Japan. Sand-free, plump and with the ideal balance of salinity and sweetness, the shellfish are harvested from the waters of Hakata Bay where they grow among ribbons of rich green wakame seaweed. The unusual part? The clams were first born in a laboratory, and nurtured in a secure location off Shikanoshima Island just under an hour’s drive from Fukuoka City.
“The clams are a project we’ve been involved with since the beginning,” explains chef Richard Ekkebus. The Shikanoshima Intermediate Breeding Facility of Fish and Shellfish is located on the southern tip of the island and has been successfully farming clams for the past three years in Japan. “Because the clams are grown between the wakame, they have this beautiful sweetness and a minerality that is very unusual in clams.”
We try tiny baby clams the size of a pinky nail, their diminutive size belying the intensity of their flavour. It will be several years before they grow to full maturity, fattening in algae-rich waters. Ekkebus grabs a handful of larger juvenile clams that are nearly ready for the great outdoors, letting them fall between his fingers back into the blue plastic bucket. To him, the heavy click of their shells, signaling their weight and size, is an agricultural miracle. “The clams are a taste of a more sustainable future,” he says. “A future that does not weigh heavy on our ecosystems.”
“The clams are a taste of a more sustainable future. A future that does not weigh heavy on our ecosystems.”—Richard Ekkebus
The unique clams will form the backbone of an exclusive dish Ekkebus will be serving at Taste of Hong Kong this March, partnered with ingredients sourced from farmers around the region of Fukuoka. Among them, the sweet crunch of kabu—a Japanese white turnip with very little fiber and plenty of juice—and the delicate hum of banno negi, or thin spring onions, will enhance the potato and wakame velouté that will enrobe the farmed clams.
“Last year was great, but this year I want to tell a story,” says Ekkebus, referring to how he will be approaching Taste of Hong Kong this year. By bringing in the farmers who supply Amber with their beautiful products, he will be able to let them speak—in their own words—the story of the ingredients they dedicate their lives to.
Try Farmed Clams This March
Richard Ekkebus has designed a unique dish of Fukuoka clams and wakame velouté with banno negi-infused extra virgin olive oil that will be served at Taste of Hong Kong. Guests will have a chance to try the dish and attend a workshop where they will meet the producers behind the ingredients.
Taste of Hong Kong runs from March 16 to 19 on the Central Harbourfront. For tickets, please visit hongkong.tastefestivals.com
With special thanks to the City of Fukuoka