Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe

by Irvin on April 21, 2014 · 15 comments

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If you’re looking for an outstanding Manhattan clam chowder recipe, this is the one for you!

Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe. Photo and Recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

I was lucky that growing up my mom ALWAYS had a home cooked meal on the table for dinner. I never really knew how lucky I was and I often viewed my friend with envy as they would tell me about their meals of delivery pizza or carry-out Chinese-American. Instead we had stir-fry, steamed vegetables or more traditional Chinese or Taiwanese food with the usual side of rice. Occasionally my mom would stretch her culinary sensibilities and make lasagna or T-bone steak with A1 sauce but it was rare that it happened. Us kids never complained about the food (and, in truth, the food was great looking back, something I took for granted) but the few times that there were stumbles in the kitchen was when my mom tried something completely different and outside her comfort zone. The most infamous of the experiments was my mom’s clam chowder. I don’t really remember much from the meal, other than my brother and sister didn’t care for it much and I certainly chimed in my dislike as well. Mom never attempted it again. (Jump directly to my recipe for Manhattan clam chowder recipe.)

Manhattan Clam Chowder. Photo and recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

It’s sad because, on the whole, my mom is a great cook. She’s doesn’t do much cooking now, and I’m always fearful that the dishes she made for me growing up will be lost. I keep on meaning to ask her to show me again how she wraps her sticky rice dumplings with bamboo leaves into the perfect pyramid shape, a tutorial she once gave me but I never really mastered. Every time I ask her to write down the recipe for her pork and fish paste soup she says she’s never really followed a recipe for it, she just sort of free forms it. And, of course, I need to get the recipe for her Asian beef jerky (which AJ loves) but I keep on forgetting. Mostly it’s my fault for not following up and, like most moms that I know from that generation, recipes weren’t ever really written down but rather made from memory and to taste.

But her clam chowder is not something I really remember specifically. I wonder if it really was as bad as we made it out to be at the time, growing worse and worse as the years pass. A soup that started out just mildly too salty or too weirdly American for us kids who grew up eating napa cabbage with dried shrimp and homemade steam pork buns but escalated into the infamous terrible dish as we all got older. A dish that got was slowly downgraded in our memories because everything else we ate in our childhood was so good in comparison.

Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe. Recipe and Photo by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

I’m pretty sure my mom has no memory of what cookbook or newspaper she got her recipe. But when I decided, on a whim, to make a clam chowder, I decided to veer away from the traditional New England cream based chowder which is what my mom attempted to make and go with a Manhattan style one with a tomato base. Traditionalist will, no doubt, find it blasphemous to use a tomato base for the soup but if you think of a clam based Cioppino soup instead, that should calm all those who cry foul. If only the memory of my mom’s soup could be as easily fixed with a name change.

(Special thanks to Sean Timberlake for the loaning of the bowl. Apparently I don’t own any photo worthy bowls.)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

The Suzzzz April 21, 2014 at 8:06 am

Is it weird that I want that for breakfast right now?


Arthur in the Garden! April 21, 2014 at 1:12 pm

To “The Suzzz” No its now weird! Of course, here in North Carolina we eat it Calabash-style! I would not have second thoughts about having clam chowder for breakfast!


Belinda @zomppa April 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm

You are lucky to have home cooked meals like that! This recipe looks amazing (though being from New England, clam chowder should not be red!)


Lindsey @ American Heritage Cooking April 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm

You are so lucky to have a mother that loves to cook healthy, fresh meals for her family! That’s the kind of mother I want to be.

This soup look amazing! I’ve never had Manhattan clam chowder (shocking!) only its creamy, dreamy cousin.


Shikha @ Shikha la mode April 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I didn’t even know there was such thing as Manhattan clam chowder, and I was just in Manhattan/NYC a few weeks ago too! I feel that in SF, people tend to stick to the traditional, New England version, which is what I’ve always had.


Miss Kim @ behgopa April 21, 2014 at 7:02 pm

The dish looks really delicious. At first glance at the pics, I kind of thought it could even be spicy, but it looks like nothing in the ingredients list is used for spiciness.

The Asian jerky sounds awesome. I don’t think I’ve had them before, but I can imagine the yummy flavors of it.

Lol when I was growing up, I pretty much always ate home cooked dinner too (never cooked by my mom. she was and still is a terrible cook). Dinner was always prepared by my grandma and our housekeeper. I remember being jealous of friends that got to have Taco Bell for dinner lol.


Katina April 21, 2014 at 8:36 pm

I can completely relate to this post! I was just talking to my mom the other day on how she and my dad don’t know how to cook most (if any) of the wonderful soups and dishes that my grandparents make. I often ask my grandparents for recipes, but, like you said, these are dishes that they just ” know” how to make – no recipe available. And if they do give me the recipe, it never tastes the same. I wish there was a way to ensure that the recipes are passed down, but not sure how. In any case, this soup looks great!


Erlene April 22, 2014 at 1:55 am

Your post reminded me of my grandmother and her famous sushi. She was like your mom and never wrote anything down and did everything by taste and memory. Lucky for me, my mother wrote down as best she could the recipe. Now my grandmother and mother have passed and I still haven’t mastered the recipe to the way I remember. I’ll keep practicing though.
BTW-As a mom that has made many failed dishes, I have to sort of laugh. This post totally brought me back to those moments when those failed dishes showed up on my kids’ faces.


Christine from Cook the Story April 22, 2014 at 6:20 am

Those fresh clams are screaming my name! This looks amazing!


Erin R. April 22, 2014 at 9:34 am

Ohhh, this makes me want to call my mom right now. She made dinner for us every night, too. While we loved her cooking and gobbled everything up, including leftovers, it was always such a treat to get takeout pizza or go to McDonald’s for dinner (McChicken, every time). Funny how you can’t fully appreciate certain things until you’re an adult.

I had to laugh at your note about the ridiculousness of this recipe. I’m incredibly intrigued by the clam juice reduction. I NEVER thought of that! I would have to cheap out and dumb it down, but I may have to wait for clam juice to go on sale and give this thing a bash. Thanks!


Tess @ Tips on Healthy Living April 24, 2014 at 6:30 am

This is a great recipe, especially since spring still seems to be in limbo. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to trying this clam chowder!


Caroline April 28, 2014 at 7:25 am

I love your story and absolutely relate to it. I grew up in the same type of home. My Mom was always in the kitchen and every meal was made from scratch. I appreciate it so much more now. This recipe is so beautiful. Really, I cannot wait to make it. I love complexity of all of those flavors. Manhattan clam chowder is a favorite, but I doubt I’ve ever had one as beautiful as yours.


merredith August 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm

This looks yummy. I’ve never had manhattan clam chowder because i’m from new england so it just seems..wrong. but if i do like you suggested and think of not as clam chowder, it does look tasty. when i was a kid i used to make my mother quantify her recipes and write them down so everything is pretty documented. i just don’t ever make them. but they’re in a card file for just in case.


G. F. McLoughlin August 31, 2016 at 9:03 pm

I’m pretty sure it’s still okay to call it “Chinese” food; you don’t need the “Chinese-American” label. (It actually IS supposed to be Chinese food).


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