O Tama Carey’s Clams with Curry Leaves and a Gentle Curry Sauce

Recipe Information

Preparation time
30 minutes
20 minutes


For the spice mix:

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cardamom pods, bruised

For the clams:

  • ¼ cup ghee
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 1 cup loosely packed curry leaves
  • 3 banana eschalots, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 long green chillies, sliced into rounds
  • Lemongrass, 3 cm from the base, left whole and bruised with the flat of a knife
  • 3 bay leaves bruised with your hand
  • 1 kg clams, soaked in salted water to purge of sand
  • 200 ml coconut cream
  • 100 ml water
  • Salt flakes and ground white pepper to season


O Tama has a special fondness for clams as there’s something satisfying about being able to pick through and suck the shells. This dish has inspiration from Italy with the anchovies and bay leaves while also drawing on her love of Sri Lankan food with its spiced curry sauce. Both curry and bay leaves have always featured heavily in her cooking as they are an excellent flavour match when combined.

  1. Place the coriander, fennel, cumin and peppercorns into a small pan and lightly toast together on a gentle heat for 4 – 5 minutes. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle, along with the salt and turmeric, and pound until fine. Set aside along with the cardamom pods.
  2. Place a large wide based pan over a medium heat and add in the ghee and anchovies, stirring constantly until the anchovies melt. At this stage add in the curry leaves, eschalots, garlic and chilli and cook until the curry leaves are looking fried and the eschalots softened, about 3 – 4 minutes.
  3. Add in the spice mix and give it a good stir.
  4. Then, add in the lemongrass, bay leaves and clams, give it a good stir to coat and then add in the coconut cream and water.
  5. Cover your pot with a lid and let the clams cook and open, raising the lid occasionally to give it a little stir and check on their progress. They should only take about 5 minutes to all fully open.
  6. Serve immediately, with some steamed rich or warm crusty bread (such as baguette) on the side.

O Tama's hot tips:

  • This sauce will work equally as well with mussels using the same method. You can also make the sauce without the clams and use it to poach any white fleshed fish, either in a fillet or cut into smaller pieces.
  • If you want to give this sauce a little more of a Sri Lankan feel you can substitute the anchovies with Maldive fish flakes, add 2 tbsp along with the curry leaves.
  • Another good addition to this dish is adding bacon or speck, it gives it an extra richness. Use 80 g, chopped into small ish pieces and add at the beginning along with the anchovies.
  • You can add or subtract the amount of chilli according to your heat tolerance.