Springtime in Korea is a brief moment between frigid winter and scorching summer. The time is too short for you to try everything that nature has to offer for spring. However, few of the delicacies that are in season for spring are something that you should find time to give a try. Like saejogae (새조개: egg cockles), the edible bivalves that are quite popular from late February to March, are worth trying as they are known for their soft texture and chicken-like flavor.
My family and I went to a sashimi place in Yuseong not too far from home. Because my sister is visiting from Canada and will be spending some time with us for next few weeks we wanted her to try Korean foods that are hard to find in her neighborhood. At a live seafood center we get to pick our own fresh ingredients straight from the tanks. We paid in advance for 3kg of saejogae and asked to prepare them for a shabu-shabu meal.
I never really heard of saejogae before and my mother explained why. Each year, the amount of saejogae collected were slim and most of them were exported to Japan. In the end, it had been very difficult to taste the rare clam in Korea. It is only recent that saejogae were supplied to the general public – making it one of the must-try delicacies of late winter/early spring.
The elongated flesh reminds you of a bird’s beak, hence the name saejogae (sae=bird, jogae= clam). The encyclopedia states that saejogae is only found in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Another reason for you to try the spring clams if you are visiting from faraway lands. Most saejogae in Korea are found in the sands of southern coast. They are at its fattest in winter so I say this could be another winter delicacy.
The shabu-shabu broth was made with vegetables thus very clear. As more and more clam meats were added the broth became more tasty and savory. In the end, you can choose to add ramen which was the cherry on top.