Clams, a late-winter estuary luxury
This time of year is when hen clams are said to be ripe for the picking and the tastiest. (Source: Visit Busan)
The fastest way to journey from Gimhae International Airport to Busan Metropolitan City is by crossing Korea's longest river, the 517-kilometer Nakdonggang River. Countless creatures are drawn to the estuary, where freshwater collides with seawater, creating an ideal locale for ingredient harvesting. A popular pick for the area's cuisine are hen clams. In the southern region of Korea, they are called galmi jogae (seagull clams) nicknamed for their galmaegi or seagull beak-like appearance.
Tis the season (for fresh clams)
Korean hen clams have different names according to their regions along the shore. They are referred to as Myeongju jogae (silk clam) in the east region and norang jogae (yellow clam) in the west region. They are also called Myeongji jogae, after the region where they are often and easily caught near the mouth of the Nakdonggang River.
Hen clams enter breeding season around February each year when their flavor is at its peak. That's what the estuary delicacy is known for, its unique taste. The best place for seasonal hen clams is Myeongji Seonchang Hoe Town (명지선창회타운), located in Ganseo-gu (district). Currently, fresh hen clams are often delivered to restaurants next to the Nakdonggang Estuary. Some say that about two decades ago, one of the restaurants in the area introduced the now-popular hen clam dishes.
Shabu shabu and pork belly dishes get a whole new twist to their look and flavor when hen clams are added. (Source; Visit Busan)
Shabu shabu and more
Many enjoy the clams with shabu shabu, where a cornucopia of vegetables is boiled in a soup broth. When the pot is bubbling, hen clams are added from a strainer. By doing so, none of the meat will be forgotten; many claim it is the best way to enjoy the clam's chewy texture and light taste. After all the meat is gone, add some ramen or udon (thick white wheat noodles) for further enjoyment.
Galsam gui (grilled pork belly and hen clams) is a harmony between the two types of meat. First, the pork, kimchi, mushroom and bean sprouts are put on the grill. Then, after the grill heats up, the hen clams are placed atop the bean sprouts to steam. The cooking process was developed to address the softness of the clams, and the heat makes the flesh harder. The thinly sliced pork is served simult-aneously, making it the best time for grilling. Then, you can wrap the cooked clams and roasted pork in sesame leaves or pickled radish. After eating all of the meat, people often stir-fry rice with vegetables in the pan.
Manho-galmi Shabu Shabu (만호갈미샤브샤브)
This eatery serves various dishes. It's particularly famous for its shabu shabu, which is reflected in its very name. The restaurant also offers galsam gui and you can choose to have either dish accompanied by either grilled or steamed hen clams. Dishes range from 40,000 to 80,000 won. It's important to note that they are closed on the second and fourth Monday of every month.
Address: 602 Renault Samsung-daero, Gangseo-gu
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.