New England clam chowder is a cream-based chowder, traditionally of a thinner consistency than other regional styles. It is commonly made with potatoes, onion, and clams. Including tomatoes is shunned; a 1939 bill making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature. It is occasionally referred to as Boston Clam Chowder in the Midwest. New England clam chowder is usually accompanied with oyster crackers. Crown Pilot Crackers were a popular brand of cracker to accompany chowder, until the product was discontinued in 2008. Crackers may be crushed and mixed into the soup for thickener, or used as a garnish.
Manhattan clam chowder has clear broth, plus tomato for red color and flavor. In the 1890s, this chowder was called “New York clam chowder” and “Fulton Fish Market clam chowder.” While cream-based clam chowder in its New England version has been around since the mid-18th century, no mention of any Manhattan chowder has been found that predates the 1930’s. The addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version “Manhattan-style” clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was (and still is) an insult.