For me, the exotic protein challenge at the beginning of this third season of Top Chef is still one of the season’s most fascinating. Beyond such oddities as eel and black chicken, we were introduced to geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”). I must admit that prior to the show, even though I consider myself fairly well versed in a wide variety of foods, I did not know what geoduck was. Here is your quick guide…
Geoduck is a species of saltwater clam also known as king clam or elephant trunk clam. It is native to the northwest Pacific coast of the US and the pacific coast of Canada. The geoduck is the largest burrowing clam in the world. It is 1-3 lbs. at maturity, but specimens of 15 lbs. or more occur. This species of clam lives a particularly long time. Typical life expectancy is nearly 150 years and the oldest recorded was 160 years old. There are few natural predators for the clam, and it does little in its life beyond siphoning in plankton and filtering it for viable food. A single female may produce 5 billion eggs in a 100 year lifespan.
Geoduck is very popular as food in China and Japan. It is highly valued for its savory taste and crunchy texture. Most often, the clam is eaten cooked at the table in a Chinese hot pot or raw like sashimi. It may be dipped in soy sauce and wasabi. The demand for geoduck in China and Japan has created a small, but profitable, industry for harvesting them in the US. Geoduck farming in the Pacific northwest has created some controversy between farmers and residents. For more, check out this website for a “Duckumentary” about the geoduck clam, and don’t miss photos of the geoduck harvest.
Meanwhile, if you want to try cooking geoduck yourself, large Asian markets are the most likely place to find the creatures. You also may want to check out and remember Sara M.’s recipe on Top Chef for Braised Black Chicken and Geoduck Ceviche with Cucumber Ribbons.
Photo of geoduck clam from Man and Mollusc.