Sazae are turban shell sea snails found in waters near Japan and Korea, with ornately beautiful shells distinguished by jagged little horns dotting their perimeter. They pack strong, fresh fragrance and the brisk salinity of the ocean, often enjoyed either raw or grilled over charcoal. When raw, they present a satisfying crunch that gives way to a chewy interior, best balanced by slicing very thinly and serving cold. For grilling Tsuboyaki style, the entire shell can be placed directly onto hot charcoal, eventually coaxing juices to boil from the shell’s interior, at which point soy sauce and sake are poured directly into the shell to yield a complex, supremely satisfying finished arrangement.
Sazae Snails are typically fished from late spring through summer, when they can be retrieved from relatively shallow coastal waters, feeding on all sorts of algae and seaweed. In Japanese folklore, the Sazae Oni (turban shell demon) exists as an amusingly menacing human/sea snail amalgamation that pilfers testicles from pirates, perhaps deservingly, depending on which variation of the tale is favored. Our catches, from Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, are known to do no such thing.
3 pieces typically make up 1 lb.