Sunday, September 13, 2020

Seafood Boil

Seafood Boil is always a good option if you need to entertain at home with little time to prepare. Not sure if it’s an American-only thing but you can see different versions of seafood boil dishes served at every household starting at around the July 4 weekend all through summer, from New England to New Orleans and from Chesapeake Bay to San Francisco Bay.  

And it’s as easy to replicate the recipe here in Hong Kong, with all kinds of seafood in abundance in the local market all year long. Summer may not be the best season for seafood shopping, with fishing moratorium being enforced in South China Sea from June to August meaning the supply and variety may be less, but there were still good choices around if you look hard enough. 

As I mentioned, there were many variations in terms how Seafood Boil was prepared – for example, down south in Louisiana, it’s predominately cajun seasonings with its punchy, spicy flavor with shrimps and crawfish being the ingredients of choice. Meanwhile up north in New England, of course it’s the famous clambake with clams and mussels (and even lobsters) along with others, using milder herbs than spices. 

In my adopted home state of Maryland, two things are the must-have in any Seafood Boil recipe – crabs and Old Bay Seasoning. And this is what my recipe will be based on with other seafood available in local markets during summer months. And the way I normally do it was to combine everything in a baking pan, started on stove top and finished in the oven. 

By the way, for those who ask how to get Old Bay Seasoning locally, Regency Spices carry a version of it and is available for online order. 

Maryland x Hong Kong Seafood Boil  

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 3 ears of fresh corn, cut into thirds
  • 1 purple onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 kg of new potatoes, halved
  • 2 medium-sized crabs – what I used were the Coral Crabs (紅蟹) commonly found in nearby waters round the year. Separate the body and claws and cut the body into 2 halves
  • 1 kg or 2 catty prawns 
  • 1 kg or 2 catty clams – I used a combination of littleneck and venus clams
  • 3 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasonings
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 can of beer (either lager or pale ale would do)
  • 3 rashers of bacon (or sausages) – cut into large pieces
  • 3 lemons, halved
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. In a deep soup pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Cook the potatoes in the pot in medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Then add in the corn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Drain and set aside everything
  2. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  3. In a large baking pan, put in the butter, bacon, onion and garlic cloves and cook in medium-heat stove top briefly to release the flavor. With the pan on the stovetop and other ingredients still in the pan, add in the crabs, clams, prawns (and other seafood you chose to use), combine the Old Bay Seasoning, salt and pepper in and gently toss with all ingredients to combine. Add the beer and bring it to a boil. 
  4. Add the parboiled potatoes and corn, plus the halved lemons to the pan, arrange so most of the ingredients are in single layer, place into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. 
  5. Before serving, check to see if the clams were opened and prawns and crabs were cooked through. Garnish with parsley and serve in the pan with crusty bread on the side and a gentle squeeze on those baked lemons to release the juice. 
  6. And what I did - in totally local style - was after we finished all the ingredients in the pan, I turned the remaining liquid into a broth (by adding dashi) and serve with udon for a second course. The broth took up all the rich umami flavor from the seafood and worked well as a comforting end to the meal. 

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