And just like that, after a 70-year prohibition on wild Mexican clams, the almeja chocolata, or chocolate clam (named after the color of the shell) and the pata de mula, or blood clam (the shell contains hemoglobin), were approved for import into the U.S. from nearby Baja California.
Until a few weeks ago, this pair of game-changing delicacies weren’t on the menu anywhere in Los Angeles. A smaller and more funky-flavored variety of blood clams has been available in L.A.’s Mexican and Central American seafood restaurants, where they are excellent in cocktails, but the availability of their larger, red-fleshed cousins is welcome news. And I enjoy chocolatas regularly in Baja California—I only saw them once before the ban was lifted, at a Mexican seafood restaurant in Bell Gardens, but they were foul and had lost all of their bright red, white, and light-beige color.
Executive chef Sam Baxter of Michael Cimarusti’s Connie and Ted’s was given a sample from International Marine Products and is now serving the two clams au natural in a dish called Blood and Chocolate. “People are kind of hesitant because of the names—chocolate and blood—so we need to educate diners a bit more,” Baxter said. Catalina Offshore is also carrying both varieties, and on Kiriko Sushi’s Facebook page, sushi master Ken Namba wrote, “The third shipment of AKAGAI bloody clams, from Mexico came this morning. Needless to add, it is VERY FRESH!”
Since these two clams are priced a little steep for Latin American restaurants, they will likely turn up in our many raw bars and sushi bars before the countless mariscos (seafood) restaurants in town. Both have firm flesh and are perfect for ceviches as well as raw preparations with a splash of citrus, soy or Worcestershire sauce, fresh vegetables, and some hot sauce.
For aficionados of shellfish and travelers to Baja California this is a dream come true—now, if I could just get chef Baxter to head to a Latino market and pick up some Salsa Huichol the Mexican seafood experience would be complete.
Connie and Ted’s, 8171 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-2722 or connieandteds.com
Kiriko Sushi, 11301 W Olympic Blvd., #102, Los Angeles, (310) 478-7769 or kirikosushi.com
Catalina Offshore, 5202 Lovelock St., San Diego, (619) 297-9797 or catalinaop.com