Popular clam chowders and why New England's is the best
New England clam chowder is a dish that can be traced back to the earliest Pilgrim settlements on the Northeast coast of the United States. Europeans were already making a primitive chowder, but the coastline gave them new ingredients to play with.
A typical French chowder at the time revolved around fish; the New England clam chowder we know today is actually the result of the introduction of an unfamiliar seafood: the quahog.
Curiously, the original Pilgrims had great disdain for the shellfish. However, as the harsh New England winters raged and settlers were forced to turn to less attractive ingredients, an affinity for New England clam chowder was born.
The affinity developed into a full blown adoration of the dish, lovingly described by American author Joseph C Lincoln as "a dish to preach about, to chant praises and sing hymns and burn incense before." But New England clam chowder isn't the only clam chowder.
The most commonly known variant is referred to as Manhattan clam chowder, containing a thinner broth than its New England cousin, along with a deep red color. This color is derived from the addition of tomatoes.
Rhode Island clam chowder is lacking two of the most distinct features of both New England and Manhattan varieties: the cream and the tomatoes. Sporting a clear broth and packed with vegetables, the soup exists as a lighter variant.
Hatteras clam chowder – also consisting of a clear broth – originated in coastal North Carolina in the Outer Banks. This recipe originated out of necessity, as the Outer Banks region was not able to sustain large-scale dairy farms or tomato crops.
One of the most unique varieties is the Minorcan clam chowder, originating near St. Augustine, Florida. This chowder is tomato-based with an interesting twist: the datil pepper.
While each variety of chowder has its fans, the creamy texture and rich history of the New England style reigns supreme. Many have tried, but none can master a true 'chowdah' quite like the Northeasterners who invented it all those years ago.