The New England version of Clam Chowder has milk in it; it’s sometimes referred to on menus as “white” chowder whereas this Manhattan style is referred to as “red.”
Some people feel that the taste of the clams comes through better, and some stand by the old adage of never mixing seafood with dairy.
Some people say that if a soup isn’t based on a white sauce, it’s not a chowder at all, but it’s probably too late to argue about applying the term to this dish without being seen as pedantic and getting funny looks.
New England style Clam Chowder is more of a cream soup; Manhattan style Clam Chowder is more of a vegetable soup with tomato, carrot, celery, and potatoes in it. The thickening comes from the starch in the potatoes.
Manhattan Clam Chowder also tends to have larger pieces of clams in it.
Some New Yorkers deny all knowledge of it, and swear they’ve been framed.
Manhattan Clam Chowder mustn’t be allowed to boil; boiling will turn the clams rubbery.
Some believe that Manhattan Clam Chowder was actually invented in Rhode Island, despite the Manhattan name, and that it the recipe was inspired by Portuguese immigrants.
Tomatoes were considered suspicious if not downright poisonous in New England until at least the mid-1800s, so Manhattan Clam Chowder would have to date from at least after then.
In 1867, Pierre Blot gave a recipe for clam chowder that included tomatoes, but no milk in his “Handbook of Practical Cookery for Ladies and Professional Cooks. Containing the Whole Science and Art of Preparing Human Food.” (New York: Appleton and Company, 1867, pp 159-60 )
Literature & Lore
Despite various rumours, it is not actually illegal to serve Manhattan Chowder in Massachusetts.