I remember winters as a kid when my mom would make seasoned ggomak for us, serving them with a hot, steaming bowl of white rice. We didn’t really have a special name for this dish, we’d just call it “ggomak,” though officially you can call it “ggomak muchim.” Blood cockles are so chewy and full of juice this time of year, and they’re especially delicious with just a dab of seasoning on top. If you want toreally go all out, you can do what my mom did, which is separate every little clam from its shell, rinse them in the water used for boiling, then place them back into their shells before dressing. Usually, however, we just halve them and let the diners pry them loose (they come out of their shells pretty easily).
You can use either sae-ggomak or cham-ggomak with this recipe (read more about the kinds of ggomak here). The only difference is that cham-ggomak aren’t easily opened with the spoon method, so you’ll have to use your fingers or a thin knife (but be careful!).
1kg sae-ggomak or cham-ggomak
2 tbsp Joseon ganjang
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp finely chopped scallion
1 tbsp gochutgaroo (red chili powder)
1 tbsp ggaesogeum (roasted sesame powder)
1 tsp sesame oil
Cooking ggomak looks very simple but you need skill to cook them perfectly. You should never overcook your shellfish, or you’ll end up with tough, rubbery meat, so controlling the heat is the most important part of cooking ggomak.
1. Fill a large pot with water—it should be big enough to hold all your clams with enough extra room to cover them with water. Don’t add the ggomak just yet, though.
2. Bring the water to a boil. As it starts to boil, add about a cup of cold water to just lower the temperature. You can also add your ggomak when you see tiny bubbles simmering at the bottom of your pot. This is important so that you can nicely cook your clams instead of overcooking the outside and leaving undercooked blood inside.
3. With a spoon, stir the pot frequently in one direction only—don’t switch from clockwise to counter-clockwise or vice-versa! This helps the flesh stick nicely to only one side of shell.
4. When 3–4 clams start opening their mouths, take out all of your ggomak (this might take around 3–4 minutes, but really depends on the temperature of your water—watch the clams, not your timer). If you wait until all of your clams open, they will be overcooked, and the flesh will be shrunken and rubbery.
5. Open the clams by twisting the edge of a spoon at the joint where the two shell parts meet.
6. Open carefully (try not to lose too much of the flesh) and get rid of the empty shell half. Place the other half-shell with flesh on a plate and double check to make sure there isn’t any leftover mud or impurities.
7. Make the ganjang dressing by combining the ganjang, water, chopped scallions, gochutgaru, ggaesogeum and sesame oil together.
8. Garnish each clam with about ⅓ tsp seasoned ganjang.
Your ggomak muchim is ready to serve right away. It can also be served cold. It’s generally eaten as a banchan with rice, and is also served as an anju with traditional Korean alcohol. If you want to keep your ggomak to eat later, wait to season them until right before serving.