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Wild at Heart

>> Thursday, May 31, 2007

If I present you this seafood dish, will you eat it?

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If then, I tell you that the dish features snails, how’s your reaction?

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I know snails can be intimidating for a lot of people. But if you can get over the “fear”, snails are the few best things you should taste. Having said that, sea snails are the only types I can handle so far. And they are my favorite seafood. One day I will gather some more courage and tackle the famous helix aspersa (brown garden snail).

My knowledge about cooking (freshwater) snails is limited to Vietnamese cuisine. The Vietnamese believe that snails have cold properties so they should be balanced with “hot” ingredients in dishes. Most often, snails are boiled with pomelo leaves or some Chinese herbs and served with a variation of Vietnamese dipping sauce where a lot of ginger is used. It is a very popular snack for the local during winter time. Northern Vietnam also has a really lovely snail noodle soup, which is as popular as pho.

But the best snail dish I have ever eaten is the one made by my mother. It’s sort of a stew that uses fresh herbs, green bananas (or plantains), fried tofu, some meat and one crucial ingredient – fermented rice residual (dấm bỗng or mẻ). This residual has the properties of rice vinegar but a lot milder and sweeter. Sadly, it’s almost impossible to find this overseas. However, I have cooked this dish successfully using verjuice. It works beautifully taste-wise but still lacks the special fragrance of the fermented rice residual. In Australia, I have used periwinkle to replicate my mother’s freshwater snail stew, which works well. But if you have a chance to travel to Vietnam, do try the local freshwater snails. They are simply the best!

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Sea Snails with Green Bananas and Tofu (Ốc nấu chuối đậu)

The amount below is estimation only

Ingredients (for 4 serves as part of a rice meal)

1 kg sea snail or periwinkle

100g ginger, sliced

200g chicken or pork meat

3 medium green bananas or plantains

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp shrimp paste

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

30g shallots, peeled and minced

100g (or more) fried tofu puffs, cut into bite size

4-5 tablespoons verjuice* (or to taste)

1/2 tsp rice vinegar

20g Vietnamese Perilla (tia to) or Thai Basil, leaves picked and shredded

Fish sauce, to taste

4 cup chicken stock

Oil, as needed


For the snails: soak in water that has been used to wash rice for 8-10 hours. Drain. Cook in a lot of water and ginger – boil for 10 mins. Leave to cool and used a pin to pick the snail meat out. Marinade with ½ tsp shrimp paste and set aside.

Peel banana skin, cut into 2 cm slices and soak in acidulated water to prevent darkening.

Cut the chicken/pork meat into small pieces. Marinade with some fish sauce.

Heat some oil in a large saucepan, add in minced garlic and shallot. Stir until fragrant and add the meat. Next, add the green bananas, turmeric powder, 3-4 tbsp verjuice, rice vinegar and a bit of fish sauce. Add chicken stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 15 mins or until the banana is nearly cooked. Add the snails and tofu. Bring to the boil again. Check seasoning. The stew should be lightly sour.

Just before serving, re-heat the stew. Add in shredded Vietnamese Perilla or Thai Bail. Serve hot with rice.

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This post is my contribution to Bron’s WILD FOOD - Edible Reptile. Please check her roundup for some exotic and wild dishes later on!


Kalyn 1:04 PM  

Anh, you are really amazing. What a great post. I've eaten escargot many times when I used to work in a French restaurant, but I haven't had it for years now. Yes, I would eat this if you made it for me.

joey 1:55 PM  

I would definitely try this! I do like snails...we have a local dish called kuhol which is snails in coconut milk with ginger and other spices. The snails are cooked with the shells so we pull out the meat with a toothpick :)

You dish sounds so delicious and I would love to try it. Aside from the Filipino dish I mentioned above, I've only also tasted escargot, so I'd like to try others :)

Truffle 3:16 PM  

Will I eat it? Absolutely! I love snails of any kind!

Graham,  6:13 PM  

In answer to your question - YES and can I have some more please :)

Nice work.

kazari_lu 6:13 PM  

I would definitely eat this. I'm not familiar with sea snails, but my whole family got to try escargot last year. it was fun, and very yummy.
i am deep into soup season now. we had wonton soup last night.

Hedgehog 8:16 PM  

my mum absolutely adores this dish. I have tried it myself but for some reason I didn't like it much. You're such a good cook. I don't think I can re-create this dish but if you give it to me I'll give it a try. :D

Lydia 9:20 PM  

I've never eaten snails -- always stayed away from them in French restaurants -- but I would definitely eat this if you made it for me!

Asha 10:13 PM  

Nah!! I am coward when it comes to Sea food!:))

Patricia Scarpin 10:31 PM  

Anh, I haven't tried snails yet, not brave enough - maybe in the future, when I'm older and know better. :)

I love your post, though - very informative!

Anh 8:47 AM  

Kalyn, thanks. This will wait for you when you come by :)

Joey, yes yes. In the south, they have this snail dish in coconut milk. Very spicy and so delicious. You make my mouth water now. I just love snails!

Truffle, I share with you the love for snails :D

Graham, thanks for dropping by. You can eat as much as you please ;)

Kazari_lu, thanks for the sweet words. I am also craving for some soup... It's just too cold lately, right?

Hedgehog, I love this dish, too. Can eat it almost everyday. My mom is an excellent cook, and her seafood dishes are always good!

Lydia, I can substitute snails with mussels just for you. The texture of mussels is quite near to the freshwater snails. :)

Asha, how about a non-seafood version? I'll make it and send to you with love. :P

Pat, thanks sweetie. Come over and try some snails. I'll also fly over to your place for some heart of palm and other local favourites. Nice plan rite?

Nora B. 10:56 AM  

Anh, I do eat snails, but only if someone else takes the flesh out of the shell for me.... I am not so daring ;-) This recipe sounds delicious, and yes, I would eat it.

Bron 12:08 PM  

Yes I would eat it and enjoy it too!
Thank you so much Anh for your wonderful entry to WILDFOOD #1

Amy 2:25 AM  

I would definitely eat this. I love snails. :D Your dish looks really, really delicious.

Sandeepa 1:13 PM  

I would eat it if you presented and recommend it :) Not have had snails though. Should soon find a good Vietnamese restaurant here.

y 11:23 PM  

Anh, where do you get your snails from? I've only ever had very good escargot overseas. In the past, the ones available here were always canned or frozen. Your recipe sounds very interesting. Definitely something I would try if I could get a hold of the ingredients required. The pomelo leaf thing sounds intriguing also. I love pomelos, but didn't know their leaves could be used in cooking as well. What flavour does the leaf contribute?

Chawanmushi 9:25 PM  

Hi Anh
Your dish looks lovely.But.....I will not eat snails .... I just can't stomach them and this may be psychological ....LOL

Shayne 10:41 AM  

Oh yes in a New York minute I would try snail. I am very adventurous when it comes to food and snails are one of the many things that I want to try; however, the hard to come by in Michigan.

Also, I would like to thank you for visiting my blog today.


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