Clam Chowder anyone?
When you travel abroad you will often be asked (especially in countries with illustrious cuisines) if there are any typical dishes from the US. Usually this question is posed a little haughtily, and usually you find yourself mentally sorting through an array of hamburgers, calorie drenched, deep-fried [insert food], or mac and cheese variants to try and find a legitimate, non-stereotypically American dish.
In fact, a traditional American cuisine does exist, and not all of it will make your cholesterol skyrocket just thinking about it. Just like the makeup of America itself, the food has been shaped by influences from immigrant cultures, making for some interesting culinary combinations to excite your taste buds. Depending on the town, city, state, or even region, the same dish might be made in different ways, sometimes even leading to bitter rivalries, such as in 1939 when Maine introduced a bill that would make it illegal to put tomatoes in clam chowder.
But, let’s get back to the food. In this chapter we’re all about Clam Chowder. It turns out, there are quite a few types of chowder to be found up and down the East Coast, and each type has its own recipe and history.
The most famous chowder is, of course, New England Clam Chowder, also known as Boston Clam Chowder. This chowder is generally credited as being the original clam chowder of the US. It is made from a creamy milk base and therefore has an overall white color. It has a thick consistency and is traditionally eaten with little round oyster crackers. Other ingredients involved are clams, sometimes called “quahogs,” potatoes, bacon, and onions.
As you head down the East Coast to Rhode Island you will find that the chowder changes with the –ok no, nothing else changes—just the chowder. But what a drastic change it is! Instead of being thick and creamy, it has a clear broth base. But don’t get too worries, the rest of the ingredients stay the same with the addition of the traditional clams, onions, bacon and potatoes.
Moving down the coast you come to New York, and here’s where the chowder really changes. Manhattan clam chowder is red. That’s right, they add the dreaded tomatoes! No more creamy base, instead the Manhattanites even add chunks of tomatoes along with other vegetables to the mix. According to the history, this recipe became popular with the arrival of the masses of Italian immigrants in the mid-19th century and has remained a Manhattan staple since.
Heading to the Outer Shore area of North Carolina, you’ll find yet another recipe for clam chowder, known as Hatteras clam chowder. This recipe is similar to Rhode Island Clam Chowder, but is thickened to the consistency of New England clam chowder and then heavily seasoned with pepper for added some zing.
Last but not least, we have the spiciest chowder, the Minorcan clam chowder. This delicious, fiery chowder can be found in St. Augustine, Florida. The recipe’s founders (as you might have guessed) originated from Minorca just off the coast of Spain. They came to St. Augustine in the late 18th century, bringing their delicious recipes along with them. Fundamentally, this chowder is the same as the Manhattan clam chowder, but with a key additional ingredient: datil peppers. These peppers give the chowder some Mediterranean kick, completing its transformation from thick, heavy, and creamy to light, tomato-y, and spicy.
If, after reading this, you have become a chowder enthusiast, it is highly advisable that you make time for a road trip to sample the best chowders up and down the East Coast. With a trip like this, you’ll often find that the best chowders from each area can be found both in big cities and in smaller remote towns. To make travel easier, why not rent a car with Sixt and get on the road?
Since it’s always better to end with some spice, you might want to start in the north heading south. Start your chowder extravaganza in Boston, home of New England clam chowder. There are a number of restaurants claiming to have the best “chowda” in town, but, depending on how much time you have to digest, you might not be able to try them all. One of the best places to go is Neptune Oyster, a small restaurant tucked away on the North End neighborhood of Boston.
If you haven’t had enough of the New England style chowder, head to Provincetown on the tip of the Massachusetts hook for more beach and—more importantly—more chowder! If you’re ready for something new, you can drive down to East Providence, Rhode Island and grab some Rhode Island clam chowder at Horton’s Seafood. Iggy’s Doughboy and Chowder House is another great option and they have locations in either Warwick or Narraganset.
And where to find a good Manhattan clam chowder in New York City? This city is full of great food to explore if you have the time and the budget. But don’t get distracted from your chowder-quest! Try some great Manhattan style chowder at Oceana Restaurant. And, since you’re in New York City, why not take advantage of the innovative new chowder recipes being developed by the most talented young chefs in the country? Try Ed’s Chowder House and you’re sure to taste something new and delicious to satisfy your increasingly refined chowder palette.
Once you hit the road again you’ll need to stop off a few times before you arrive, but the next must stop should be the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Try Sam and Omie’s for a bowl of Hatteras Clam Chowder and enjoy exploring this unique, thin strip of coast on Route 12.
After a few more stops along the way, you can finally relax with a nice spicy bowl of Minorcan Clam Chowder in St. Augustine, Florida to complete your chowdery mission. Head over to O’Steens Restaurant for some of the best Minorcan style chowder in its town of origin.
After your chowder-filled journey is done, let us know which one was your favorite!