Spring brings all kinds of good things to the fish market, and one of these is the bounty of fresh clams. Most clams in Korea come from the West and South seas, where shallower waters give rise to mudflats and sandy coastlines. Here are some of the most common spring clams you’ll find at the fish market in Korea—take this list with you and pick up a bag of clams on your next visit.
1. Baekhap (백합, Asian hard clam): Largest and meatiest of the spring clams, you can make an incredible soup with deep, clean sea flavors by boiling them in just enough water to cover them. Season after boiling—you might not need any salt at all. You can also steam them, or wrap them in foil and grill.
2. Jaecheop (재첩, Corbicula leana): A tiny freshwater clam found in mountain streams, jaecheop is used more for adding flavor than for its meat, since it’s so small. You have to use a lot of jaecheop in your soup to get its mineral-clam flavor and make your broth milky white.
3. Moshi jogae (모시 조개, Cyclina sinensis): Also called gamurak (가무락) in Korean, you’ll often find two color varieties of the clam (white and black) at the market, but they’re the same clam with the same flavor profile. It tends to be on the salty side compared to other clams. Like other clams, it’s used in tang (탕, soup with a loose broth), grilled, and makes for a nice spaghetti alle vongole addition. ^^
4. Bajirak (바지락, littleneck clam): The most common of the clams, bajirak is available practically year-round—though spring is when the local bajirak are most plump and plentiful. More often used in soups, stews and noodles since they’re on the small side, make sure to get bajirak that are bigger than 3cm across to help keep the mudflats populated for next year.
5. Dongjuk (동죽, surf clam or duck clam): Dongjuk are a plump and sweet clam that are highly underrated and surprisingly affordable—prices are comparable to bajirak, but while bajirak have a meatier flavor, dongjuk are light and full of sweet, clean juice. Both have their uses, of course. Dongjuk are used in most of the same ways that bajirak are used, but they’re also grilled, which makes their sweet juices concentrated and delicious.
6. Gari-mat jogae (가리맛 조개, gari razor clam): Rounder and plumper than the skinny razor clams (맛조개, matjogae) you’ll find elsewhere, gari-mat jogae can be grilled, baked, and added to soups and stews. Some people call it the “emperor of flavor” since it’s a tasty and meaty clam. The gari-mat jogae population took a huge hit in recent decades with land reclamation projects, but breeding programs in the last few years are slowly bringing them back.