This weekend, I am in Denver, Colorado visiting my friend, Steven. My good friends, the Vagabloggers, Josh and Meisha, decided to make a pitstop to Denver on their way up to explore the Northwest. We went to the coolest Asian supermarket here in Denver and found live snails!
Visiting the rice paddy fields in Vietnam and handpicking snails with my cousins is a fond memory that I have of my homeland, so I was super excited at this find.
I haven’t ever seen live snails at a supermarket in the United States. I am sure you can find them in plenty of grocery stores in California – a state full of Asian-Americans, but growing up in Tennessee, we didn’t have access to live snails.
You have no idea how excited I was to prepare snails for my friends. Whenever I visit my family in Vietnam, we always go to the paddy fields, collect snails and then go home to prepare Oc Luoc – Snails that are cooked with ginger and lots of lemongrass and lime leaves. This is the best way to eat snails, and I think it is super delicious. I think if you’re American, it may be a little too weird for you, but the dipping sauce and all the lemongrass masks the natural oddness of the snails. (Make sure you get smaller snails; they are less chewy and easier to eat if you prefer not to taste the snail-ness of them.)
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I enjoyed cooking it.
The Vagabloggers and I even created a video to show you step-by-step how to cook snails. See me in action! (Check out their blog post on their snail eating adventures!)
Ginger Lemongrass Snails with Chiles
For the Snails:
- 1.5 to 2 cups snails
- 2 cups water
- 3 stalks lemongrass sliced into 4-inch pieces and bruised
- 1 large knob of ginger pounded (or chopped) into small pieces
- 10 lime leaves slightly crushed with your hand
- 2 Thai chili peppers sliced
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- 1 tablespoon Fish sauce
For Nuoc Mam Cham (Dipping Sauce):
- 3 Tablespoon Ginger minced
- 4 Cloves Garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoon Lemongrass Minced
- 2 Lime Leaves minced
- 3 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 2 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Hot Water
- 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- Juice from 1/4 Lime
Clean the Snails:
- To clean the snails, rinse them multiple times in water. Soak the snails in salted water. For good measure, soak them 3-4 times in salted water. This will help get rid of some of the impurities and gunk in the snails.
Make the Dipping Sauce:
- As you are soaking the snails, make the dipping sauce (called nuoc mam cham).
- Finely mince your ginger, garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves. Add them to a small mixing bowl.
- Add the fish sauce, sugar, hot water, and vinegar. Mix well. Add Sriracha sauce and lime juice. Taste and adjust, depending on your preference. For saltier dipping sauce, add more fish sauce. For a kick, add more Srirachi sauce. If you want more sour flavor, add more lime.
Cooking the Snails:
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, boil two cups of water.
- Add the lemongrass stalks, ginger, whole lime leaves, chili peppers, Srirachi sauce, and fish sauce. Stir well.
- When the mixture comes to a boil, add the snails.
- Cover the saucepan and cook for 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of the snails. Smaller snails will cook faster.
Serve and Enjoy:
- Transfer the snails to a plate and serve with the dipping sauce.
- To eat the snails, take a toothpick and stab the meaty part of the snail. Remove from its shell, holding your fingernail in place to separate the snail’s flesh from its fecal matter (which is the darkish part following the snail’s body). You will be able to tell when you eat a snail’s fecal matter, so make sure you avoid this.
- Bon Appetite!