Golbaengi (골뱅이) are small sea snails that are found all over the world. They’re delicious in soups and side dishes, and excellent when grilled. These shellfish have a chewy texture, with the natural sweetness its charm. I didn’t eat them too much when I was a child, but as I got older, they were definitely making more appearances on our kitchen table.
My love for shellfish has no bounds. My mom has always told me that I am my father’s daughter. He grew up on an island in Korea, and had an abundant source of seafood, living minutes from the shore. My guess is that Mom wanted to find some easy dishes to make for him, other than fish, and this was one of them. This also meant that I would be delightfully eating them too!
For as long as I remember, we have had a tub of minari (미나리) growing in our backyard. It’s a basin filled with water, recreating its typical marshy environment in a tiny box. The moment it looked dry, my dad would fill it with water again. One summer, we forgot to water it, and the vegetation looked pitiful. We were sure it was dying, but decided to water it anyway. It magically came back to life, and we had plenty of greens to eat in a couple of weeks.
A snip off the top of each plant allows the minari to regrow. My mom wanted to send me some, so she wrapped a bunch of stalks with a damp paper towel, sealed it in a zipper bag, and sent it to me. I have yet to find them here in the City, so I’m so happy that we still have some growing in our yard.
These greens marry well with cucumbers for that added crunch. I didn’t make these with noodles, but those can be added to this recipe very easily, making it a meal.
- 1 bunch Minari
- 1 Kirby Cucumber
- 1 small Carrot, optional
- 1 large Scallion
- 6g (2t) Garlic
- 2g (1t) Ginger
- 400g (1 can) Sea Snails, like Bai Top Shells
- 50g (3T) Gochujang
- 2g (1t) Red Pepper Flakes
- 40g (3T) Sesame Oil
- 22g (1½T) Rice Vinegar
- 4g (1t) Granulated sugar
- 2g (½t) Sesame Seeds, plus more for garnish
- 300-400g (about 11-14oz) Somyeon, optional
- Discard woody stalks and bruised leaves, and wash the minari. Drain well and place in a large bowl.
- Wash the cucumber and carrot (if you are using it), and slice the cucumber into half moons or matchsticks. Julienne the carrot. Chop the scallion, and mince the garlic and ginger. Add all of these to the bowl.
- Open a can of the shellfish and drain the liquid. Cut the larger snails in half, then put them with the sliced vegetables.
- Make a sauce with the rest of the ingredients. Pour the seasoning over the shells and mix gently, but thoroughly.
- Serve as a side dish to your meal, or enjoy with somyeon as an anju.
- 1 bunch that has been cleaned, turns out to be about 2-3 loose cups of minari.
- If you don't have minari at your local Asian supermarket, you can omit this and add more cucumber and carrot. Thinly sliced sweet onion is also a welcomed ingredient for this dish.
- Sea snails come in a variety of sizes, but the ones we use are called bai top shells. You can find the canned shells at the Asian market, but sometimes these sea snails look more akin to their common land cousins (less pointy, more domed). These snails are a kind of mollusk that live in the sea, with a cooked texture similar to abalone. If you can't find bai top shells at your local Asian food store, you can use any other sea snail, as long as it isn't too large (if you decide to use abalone or conch, you will have to slice them into smaller pieces).
- You can find Japanese sōmen (索麺、そうめん) or Korean somyeon (소면) at most Asian supermarkets. They are thin white noodles made with wheat flour.
- Enjoy the dish as-is, without noodles. Add the noodles if it will be served as a meal, or with alcohol.