Have you ever seen a geoduck?

If you’ve never encountered this giant clam, let’s just say that its appearance is rather suggestive. Phallic would be another apt description.

Geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”) is a shellfish that’s native to the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia and Washington State. Its shell alone can measure 15-20 centimeters (6-8 inches), but its elongated neck, called the “siphon,” can stretch up to a meter (three feet) long.

Picture a baby elephant’s trunk sticking out of a clamshell, and you can begin to get the idea.

How Does Your Geoduck Grow?

The geoduck you’ll find in Richmond and metropolitan Vancouver is either wild or farmed. The Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program recommends both as sustainable seafood products.

In British Columbia, divers typically harvest geoduck by hand. Diving 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet) from their boat to the ocean floor, they look for a geoduck “show” – a dimple in the sand or the tip of the clam’s siphon – that alerts them to the geoduck’s position.

Divers use a high-pressure water spray to loosen the sand around the clam. They gently pull up the geoduck and put it into a bag that’s attached to their waist, which they then send up to the fishing boat waiting on the surface.

Let’s Eat Those Clams

Geoduck is considered a delicacy in many Asian cuisines. Taking a recommendation from local chef Stephen Wong, who is a judge for the annual Chinese Restaurant Awards and also works with the Canadian geoduck harvesters’ association, my husband Alan and I, along with two seafood-loving friends, headed to Richmond’s Bamboo Grove Restaurant in search of fresh geoduck.

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The modest front entrance at Bamboo Grove (Photo: Carolyn B. Heller)

Finding your way into Bamboo Grove is almost as elusive as hunting for the giant clam. From the front of the building on Number 3 Road, the restaurant looks like an aging chop suey house, with a fading sign and heavy drapes covering the windows.

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The more elegant façade at Bamboo Grove faces the parking lot (Photo: Carolyn B. Heller)

Go around to the back, though, and enter from the parking lot, where bow tie-sporting waiters will greet you and escort you to your white tablecloth-covered table.

The most common way to prepare fresh geoduck is to slice it and quickly sauté it. At Bamboo Grove, working with the Chinese Restaurant Awards, Chef Ming Yeung created an unusual geoduck dish that remains on the restaurant’s menu: Stir-fried B.C. Geoduck with Eggs.

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Stir-fried geoduck with eggs at Bamboo Grove (Photo: Carolyn B. Heller)

While it looks simple enough – a plate of scrambled eggs tossed with pale slices of giant clam – this dish is surprisingly rich and creamy. Improperly prepared clams can be tough, but here, both the delicately cooked eggs and the geoduck slices are soft and buttery. It’s both unusual and satisfyingly smooth – a high-end comfort food.

More Places to Try Geoduck in Richmond

Wong says that several of the higher-end Chinese eateries in Richmond are good places to order the giant clam. In addition to Bamboo Grove, he especially recommends Chef Tony and Jade Seafood.

Note that you’ll need deep pockets for a dinner-sized preparation of fresh geoduck. Prices vary, but expect to spend at least $50-60 for a geoduck dish. The geoduck and egg dish we sampled at Bamboo Grove, while delicious, included 1.5 pounds of geoduck and cost us $75.

Another relatively common, and less costly, geoduck preparation is congee (rice porridge) studded with the giant clam, often served at dim sum or lunch. Jade Seafood has geoduck congee ($7.99/bowl) on their daytime menu; at lunch, Kongee Dinesty prepares a “claypot geoduck congee” ($15.88).

Photo credit: Lindsay Anderson

Japanese restaurants in Richmond and elsewhere serve raw geoduck, known as mirugai, as sashimi or nigiri sushi. You can also find it grilled, like these geoduck skewers from Sushi Hachi.

The elephantine geoduck clam may not win any beauty contests, but it’s local, sustainable, and scrumptious.