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Clam Belly, Preferably Fried

Part of: Vermont 08 – Cheese & Tasty Things Tour

There are two kinds of fried clams in this world–fried clam strips and fried clams with bellies. The first kind is a flavorless dried out, stringy, piece of clam meat. The second kind is moist, tender and full of ocean flavor. For the past couple of years pork belly has been the big thing…I hope clam bellys get their turn to shine.

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There are two parts to clams–the “muscle part” and the “soft everything else part.” The “soft everything else part” is what is called the belly. When you have fried clams with belly, you are eating the whole clam. Soft shelled clams or steamers are the clams that are most often used. They are also called longneck clams or Ipswich clams. These clams spend most of their life chilling out in the mudflats of New England, filtering water for tasty bits of food. Anyhow, the belly is where all the magic happens for the clam, and where all the flavor is. When you just get the strips, you miss all this goodness.

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I grew up in Massachusetts, but in the Western part which has as much in common with Albany as it does Boston. When I was growing up fried clams meant fried clam strips. Luckily Carolyn grew up on the other end of the state and got to spend a lot of time in Rockport, MA where fried clams always means belly included. One of the best places for fried clams is Ipswich, MA. You should have guessed this since soft shells are also known as Ipswich Clams.

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After a day in Rockport we went to the Clambox in Ipswich and ordered two large Fried Clams with Belly boxes. Four people manage to devour this order in a record 12 minutes. While we probably could have gotten away with a smaller order, no one walked away from the table unhappy. The clams were perfectly fried, with a moist and tender interior and a crisp and crunchy crust. The meaty part was not at all over cooked and the belly tasted like the ocean. The clams were not from Ipswich; it seems like they are having a little Red Tide problem. Instead, they were from Maine and were just as good. Since you keep clams live until they are cooked, it is not problem to bring them a couple of extra miles.

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Fried clams with bellies are tougher to find outside of New England. Luckily for us, and all of the other residents of DC, Hank’s Oyster Bar has a mean plate of fried Ipswich Clams with Bellies. While the ambiance might be a bit more yuppie and a little less New Englandy, it is some tasty eating and I dare say almost as good.

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41 thoughts on “Clam Belly, Preferably Fried

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  2. From CT now in Richmond VA area. Does anyone know where around here for decent whole-bellies? PLEASE ! By the way, Sam the Clam between Waterbury and Meriden CT (close to rt 84) does a fairly good job. I miss NewEngland food

  3. I had clams with bellies out east one summer near Cape Cod. I could not see the bellies because of the batter but when I ate one it had the consistency of a worm! It was disgusting and I spit it out. The waitress asked if there was something wrong and I told her I didn’t care for them. She told me that that was the best part of the clam. I told her I would tear them off, eat the strips and she could have em. Later that night I was nauseated and had the runs. Never again!

  4. We just returned from Boston where we had plenty of whole belly clams. Now we’re back in Detroit. Any idea where we can find some around here?

  5. I’m from Lynn Ma and now live in Sranton Pa for 19 years and I want CLAM BELLIES! I say we all go on a road trip together! Let’s get packed and go to Boston!! Clam bellies for everyone.

  6. Where in Los Angeles can I get fried clams with the belly?
    I am from Medfrord and since leaving the area in 77 haven’t beenb able to find my favorite food.
    Are there any clam shacks in new England that will overnight fried clams?
    Any info is appreciated.

    • Go to the blue water grill in orange county, ca. They have several locations, all very good. Go, go now! Ipswich clams are THE BEST!!!!

    • Im from ma. now in az have been going to a rest. in Los Vegas called monstah lobsah for belly in fried clams but they closed last month, They had them flown in already battered and frozen in milk carton type containers. Now we need to find the seafood broker that ships them. They are worth whatever it would cost.ymmmmm

  7. I was born In Boston and grew up on fresh seafoods, I am now 64 and got married 11 years ago to a woman in PA. Oh I love her, but they only have Crabs here, huh, not my cup of tea. I love haddock,cod,and especially clams w/the bellies.
    There fish batter here is hard and tuff, not light and crispy, I can’t afford to come home yet is there anyway I could get the recipe for a light fish and clam batter. I will order my clams from Ipswich Ma. I love my clams and miss them as I do all my seafood up North. helpless in PA

  8. Thisis an excelent post. Would have replied sooner but I just retired out here from Ft.Lewis, WA. If you would like to know where to great fresh clam bellies, just ask me. If you are on the east coast then, you are blessed. My fiance’ is a Conneticut born and raised girl, and she introduced me to clam belies like 4 years ago (little did she know that they have been serving them in the U.K. for years. Honestly, America does thes wonderful creatures righ. No waste and puts a smile on all clam belly lovers’ faces; even if it may substandard (c’mon, don’t lie! ;-)) Again, thank you, and good therapy for me!

  9. But still, what is inside the clam belly? I am from Wyoming and won’t fall totally for the clam until I know what is inside the belly? (live in maine now)

  10. HI. im Don and I grew up in Amherst MA. AND LOVED WHOLEBELLY
    FRIED CLAMS. NOW I LIVE IN TN BUT AM PLANNING TO GO TO VA. IN THE NEXT YEAR. IM LOOKING FOR A GOOD SUPPLIER OF CLAMS.
    WHEN I USED TO GO TO RONDOUS SNACK BAR FOR CLAMS I NOTICED THEY CAME IN LARGE CANS AND NOT FROZEN OR FRESH WHICH WERE VERY GOOD WHOLE BELLIES.I WOULD LOVE TO FIND THEM CANNED FOR LONGER SHELF LIFE NOW THIS IS WHOLEBELLY NOT BABY CLAMS
    IF ANYONE KNOWS WHERE I CAN GET THEM PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

    THANKS DON

  11. Thanks for the great info on clam differences. I wondered why all the restaurants in Wilmington, DE had inferior fried clams. Now I know they are merely strips.

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  13. I grew up in New England but just had my first encounter with Fried Clam Bellies from Ebb Tide Resturaunt on the long island sound in Port Chester,NY. INCREDIBLE!

  14. I GREW UP IN MERIDEN, CONN. I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO GO TO BAILEY ISLAND, MAINE ON VACATION WITH AN AUNT & UNCLE WHEN I WAS 12 AND 13 YEARS OLD. THIS WAS MY INTORDUCTION TO MAINE LOBSTER AND FRIED CLAMS. I AM NOW AN OLD MAN LIVING IN RETIREMENT IN PORT RICHEY, FL. HERE I FOUND A RESTAURANT THAT SERVES MY FAVORITE, IPSWITCH CLAMS. HOW LUCKY I AM TO BE ABLE TO SAVOR THIS WONDERFUL CLAM WITH MY WIFE WHEN WE DINE OUT. IN THE FUTURE I AM PLANNING A TRIP UP NORTH TO MAINE AND FILL UP ON THIS GREAT SEAFOOD OF MAINE LOBSTER & CLAMS. THE BEST IN THE WORLD BY FAR. I LOOK FORWARD TO CHECKING OUT THE “CLAM BOX” WHEN I DO. SAVE SOME CLAMS FOR ME, BOB BACON

  15. WHERE CAN I GET CLAMS W/BELLIES READY TO FRY…ALREADY BREADED AND DELIVERABLE!!!!!!!!!!!! I GREW UP IN IPSWITCH CLM HEAVEN…Fall River MA

    Please respond!!!

    a fellow clam lover

  16. Dear Sirs,

    I grew up on the Jersey Shore in the late 70′s / early 80′s. My first job as a teenager was a busboy in a roadside joint near the beach in Seaside Park, NJ called Lobster Time. One of my jobs every night was to get out a container of frozen ipswich clam strips, set them in a colander on the drainboard to defrost so the morning prep guy could toss them in cracker meal, salt and pepper and get them back under refrigeration.

    I now live in Ohio and I must say it has been about 22 years since I have tasted some freshly fried ipswich clamstrips dipped in some fresh tarter sauce. Needless to say, I am craving them. Is there any way I could buy a couple frozen containers of clamstrips from you and you can fed-ex them to me? Is that even possible?

    Please advise,

    Land-locked in Ohio-

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  18. Oh how I love fried Ipswich clams. Grew up on them, but now live in Jersey. I miss eating them more than any other New England food. Honestly, I salivate when I see a picture of them. No where near Atlantic City has them.

  19. I’ve never visited, never had a feast of clams and love the absolute quaintness of the environment. I could stay there for a month and be perfectly happy.

  20. Great post! I love your images. Ipswich is so much fun to visit and I adore Crane Beach. I really want fried clams right now though. I think a road trip is definitely in order.

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