While its name is endlessly amusing to pronounce – goo-ey duck – it can be quite misleading. Neither a duck nor very gooey either, the geoduck is an enormous saltwater clam most commonly found along the Pacific Ocean near Washington state and British Columbia.
These clams are among some of the most bizarre looking sea creatures I have ever seen, perhaps as bizarre as the blob fish (Check out a photo, here!).
The geoduck has a shell like most clams, but what makes it unique is its long “neck.” While the shell ranges from six to eight inches long, the neck can be up to three feet long.
The name is from the Native American language, meaning, “dig deep.” As the largest burrowing clam in the world, the geoduck make their homes at depths between 10 and 80 feet below sand and mud sediments along the coast.
Commonly found in Asian cuisines, geoduck is not often seen on menus in the United States (at least to my knowledge, it’s not).
Chef John at Cashion’s recently featured geoduck on his menu. Recognizing my child-like excitement over getting to see a geoduck for the first time, he jokingly told me to “go play” when it arrived at the restaurant. I picked it up, turned it over and inspected it carefully, staring at its long, phallic-like neck. I giggled immaturely, as I also realized why the geoduck is often considered an aphrodisiac.
As Chef explained to me, the meat from the neck is best served as ceviche or sashimi (pictured, right), as it most often is in Asian cuisine. The geoduck can be boiled whole for a short amount of time (called par-boiling), making the tough, protective outer layer of the neck peel off easily. The neck can then be thinly sliced and paired with traditional accompaniments, such as pickled ginger or ponzu sauce for dipping.
Par-boiling the geoduck also makes its shell easier to pry open. The meat from inside the shell is similar to clam meat and can be treated in the same way.
Chef John featured geoduck on his menu as an appetizer. He first made a geoduck ceviche. He thinly sliced the neck, mixed it with pickled ginger, brunoised peppers, pineapple and chilies and tossed everything with a sweet, tangy vinaigrette. The ceviche was paired with a deep-fried geoduck fritter made from the meat inside the shell. The fritter was made from a basic batter with chopped shell meat and other garnishes folded into it.
I loved the flavors and textures of this dish. The geoduck ceviche was tender, but also a bit crispy. I was reminded of clam meat, but the flavor was smoother and milder. I loved the heat and crunch from the chilies and the sweetness of the pineapple as well.
The accompanying fritter was paired with a subtly spicy horseradish mayo. The light, airy texture of the fritter did not overwhelm the geoduck flavor, as I suspected it might. I enjoyed the complexity of this appetizer – the contrast of a sweet and acidic ceviche dish all about fresh, bold flavors with the fritter, a saltier, more savory accompaniment.
With two different types of meat, there are many ways in which the geoduck can be prepared and enjoyed. Despite its ridiculous name, and even more ridiculous appearance, geoduck really is quite a treat. What’s not to love about a three and a half foot long burrowing clam?