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The Glory That Is Geoduck


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The Glory That Is Geoduck

David Hammond | Aug 7, 2003 01:11 PM

Last Monday, I sampled a most amazing mollusk: geoduck (pronounced GOO-ee-duck). It lives mostly in the Puget Sound area.

I saw a gaggle of geoducks resting motionless in a tank in Seattle's Chinatown. Their phallic appearance has been often remarked upon: they have a grey knob at one end and a long, yellow shaft at the other (they look a little like pale yellow Japanese radishes or smaller versions of the sand worms in Dune). Their average size is about 2.2 pounds, and they can live up to 140 years in tidal sand and mud.

I ate some of these satisfying slugs raw, and let me tell you: geoduck has all the good flavors of oysters and clams, and none of the downside (e.g., sea-snot consistency and vile green innards). Now, I enjoy a good raw clam or oyster, but my preference is for the smaller, meatier bivalves (cherrystones and kumamotos, respectively) because I prefer a toothier mouthfeel (more bite, less mush). Geoduck delivers, with the slightly-resistant density of chicken gizzards (and I mean that in a good way), and flavors as rich as satisfying as oysters and clams, tanging of the deep, salty and ancient.

I understand geoduck is quite good in black bean sauce, and will endeavor to try that as soon as possible. For first timers, I’d probably recommend it sashimi-style, so you can catch all the subtle ocean-y flavors. It seems to be usually cut into thin medallions (which makes sense, given the density of the meat), though there are no doubt many ways of preparing it (some, I'm sure, predating the European Invasion by many centuries).

Fun Facts about Geoduck (Panopea abrupta):

The name comes from either Nisqually or Chinook, a pidgin trading language developed between European traders and the native inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. It may be a way of saying “dig deep.”
Port Townsend naturalist David George Gordon, author of "Field Guide to the Geoduck" has noted that the flesh and shells of geoducks combined make up the greatest biomass of any animal in Puget Sound. "If you had a pile of all the salmon, and all the seals, and all the orca whales, and all the everything, the geoduck pile would be the biggest."

Evergreen State College in Olympia has the geoduck as their mascot, and their fight song goes like this:

Go geoducks go
Through the mud and slime let's go
Siphon high
Spit it out
Swivel all about
Let it all hang out.

In the Chicagoland area, you can purchase geoduck on Friday and Saturday at Mitsuwa market (it’s right next to the tuna). The stuff is not cheap (prices go from around $30 to up to $50 a pound, and that’s probably due to the limited geographic range of these creatures and the relative difficulty of catching them; about which, see link below).

Mitsuwa Market
100 E. Algonquin Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Phone: 847-956-6699
Hours: 9-8, Mon-Sun


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