A symphony of ingredients contribute to the bold flavor of this dish. Fresh clams, roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes with a hint of spice. All in perfect harmony. The soup is thickened with vegetables instead of roux, so it remains light and full of flavor.
Clean the whole clams first so they can soak in salt water while you prepare the rest. Using a stiff brush, scrub the outside of the clam shells to remove dirt or barnacles.
Fill a bowl with water and add the salt. Stir until the salt dissolves. Rinse the clams one last time and place them in the salt water.
Prepare your vegetables. Do your best to cut the vegetables uniform in size and shape so they cook evenly.
Place your diced fennel and leeks together, covering half of a parchment lined sheet pan.
Cut the tomatoes in half. Core them and place face down on the other half of the sheet pan. Spread the diced bell peppers around the tomatoes. Keep the fennel and leeks separate from the bell peppers and tomatoes.
Coat the vegetables with oil and roast for 1 hour, or until soft and slightly toasted/roasted on top. Stir occasionally while cooking to allow them to cook evenly.
While the vegetables are roasting, pour the broth into a medium sauce pan or stock pot. Peel and cube the sweet potato and add it to the pot with the broth. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft.
Add the roasted fennel and leeks to the pot with the broth once the potatoes are fully cooked.
With a hand blender or food processor, puree the roasted peppers and tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Pour the puree into the pot, add in the heavy cream and garlic chili paste before returning the pot to the stove. Cook covered over medium heat, bringing it to a slow boil to combine the flavors.
Give the clams one more rinse. Reduce the heat and wait for the pot to stop boiling before adding the clams. Once added to the pot, cook them on low, and avoid boiling. The clam shells will open when fully cooked. Discard any clams that don't open after cooking.
The garlic chili paste can be found in most supermarkets in the Asian food isle. The garlic chili paste I used, distributed by Huy Fong Foods, is a mixture of chili peppers, garlic, shrimp paste, fish sauce, ginger, shallots, scallions, palm sugar, lime juice and vinegar. It adds great flavor to the dish. You can also make your own garlic chili paste using these ingredients, if you are unable to locate the garlic chili paste at the store.