Escargots

Friday, 23 February 2024 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Bon appétit
Reading Time:  8 minutes

Escargots à la bourguignonne © Marianne Casamance/cc-by-sa-4.0

Escargots à la bourguignonne © Marianne Casamance/cc-by-sa-4.0

Snails are considered edible in many areas such as the Mediterranean region, Africa, France as a whole and Southeast Asia, while in other cultures, snails are seen as a taboo food. In American English, edible land snails are also called escargot, taken from the French word for “snail”, and the production of snails for consumption is called snail farming or heliciculture. Snails as a food date back to ancient times, with numerous cultures worldwide having traditions and practices that attest to their consumption. Snails were a popular fasting food in monasteries because they are “neither fish nor meat” and therefore eating them does not violate the fasting laws.

The snails are collected after the rains and are put to “purge” (fasting). In the past, the consumption of snails had a marked seasonality, from April to June. However, thanks to snail breeding techniques, today they are available all year round. Heliciculture occurs mainly in Spain, France, and Italy, which are also the countries with the greatest culinary tradition of the snail. Although throughout history the snail has had little value in the kitchen because it is considered “poverty food”, in recent times it can be classified as a delicacy thanks to the appreciation given to it by haute cuisine chefs.

Before use in the kitchen, snails must be cleaned to remove impurities. The cleaning process (called purgado in Spanish) consists of leaving them alive for several days without eating, or only eating flour. The flour method is a homemade resource to clean the animal’s digestive tract. Formerly in Spain, snails were hung from mesh bags from which they could not escape. Snail chef Morell i Bitrià recommends not giving them anything to eat for at least eight days (ideally ten or twelve) and then washing them well. Snails that die during the purging process should be disposed of.

Snail slime should be removed with as many washes of water as possible, in a colander under running water or in a saucepan. Again they are washed, this time with salt water, which helps cut through the slime. After being cleaned and washed several times, they are transferred to a pot with cold water and salt, and when they emerge from their shells, the heat is raised to the maximum, and they are cooked for approximately a quarter of an hour. After this, they are served in the chosen stew, sauce, or recipe. This intermediate action is popularly known as engañar (“cheating”) the snail in Spain, since when they notice a certain heat, they come out of their shells, and once outside the flame is raised so that they die at that moment.

In bars where snails are offered as a tapa, it is common for them to be served with toothpicks, as this is the typical rustic utensil for eating snails. A serving commonly ranges between 25 and 30 snails. In haute cuisine-style catering, snails are consumed by grasping the shell with a pince à escargot and extracting the snail with a fork called fourchette à escargot. On a culinary level, they can be cooked in many ways: stews, baked, a la gormanta, a la brutesque. In the cuisine of Lleida, they are an ingredient in many traditional dishes, in many cases mixed with other meats such as pig’s feet, rabbit, chicken, lobsters and prawns, etc.

Patella vulgata dish 'Lapas' on Madeira © Thomas Schoch - www.retas.de/cc-by-sa-3.0 © panoramio.com - Besenbinder/cc-by-sa-3.0 Escargot de Bourgogne à la franc-comtoise © Arnaud 25/cc-by-sa-4.0 © flickr.com - Mark Mitchell/cc-by-2.0 Escargots à la bordelaise © Arnaud 25/cc-by-sa-4.0 Escargots à la bourguignonne © Marianne Casamance/cc-by-sa-4.0 Escargots à la provencale © Arnaud 25/cc-by-sa-4.0 Escargots à l'alsacienne © Véronique PAGNIER/cc-by-sa-3.0 Escargots on a market in Turin, Italy © Sebastian Fischer/cc-by-sa-3.0 © DanceWithNyanko/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Marianne Casamance/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Patella vulgata dish 'Lapas' on Madeira © Thomas Schoch - www.retas.de/cc-by-sa-3.0
People in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, and other countries in the area are used to eating African varieties of snail, which are larger. Typical of Equatorial Guinea is a giant sea snail called bilolá (Persististrombus latus), eaten stewed or sautéed, which in Cape Verde is known as búzio cabra, and is grilled on skewers.

There is a tradition of consuming snails in Andorra, Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal on the European side and Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia on the African side. Cornu aspersum is the most widespread species in the Mediterranean basin, the Iberian Peninsula, and the French Atlantic coast. In French cuisine, snails are typically purged, killed, shelled, and cooked (usually with garlic butter, chicken stock or wine), and then placed back into the shells with the butter sauce and additional ingredients, such as garlic, thyme, parsley, or pine nuts. Special tongs for holding the shell and forks for extracting the meat are typically provided. Escargot is served on indented metal trays with places for six or 12 snails. In Cretan cuisine, the snails are first boiled in white wine with bay leaves, celery, and onion and then coated with flour and fried with rosemary and vinegar. In Maltese cuisine, snails (Maltese: bebbux) of the petit gris variety are simmered in red wine or ale with mint, basil and marjoram. The snails are cooked and served in their shells. In Moroccan cuisine, snails also called Ghlal, are a popular street food. They are cooked in a jar filled with hot water, special spices, and herbs. After cooking, Moroccan snails are served in small bowls with broth and consumed hot. Moroccan snails are mostly enjoyed during winter as they are believed to be beneficial for health, especially when dealing with the common cold or rheumatism. A city known for its snail culture is the town of Lleida, in the north-Spanish region of Catalonia, where the L’Aplec del Caragol festival has been held since 1980, receiving some 300,000 visitors during a weekend in May.

Snails are consumed in Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In Indonesia, snails from the rice fields are fried on satay (skewers), a dish known as sate kakul, or grilled Tondano’s sate kolombi. In the west of the island of Java, snails from the rice fields are called tutut and are eaten with various sauces and curries.

  • Ghonghi is commonly consumed in the Terai region in Nepal.
  • Northeast India (states of Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland). In Nagaland, snails are prepared with axone and pork meat, especially fats. Locally it is called ‘hamok’. In Manipur, they are called ‘tharoi’.
  • North India (states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar). In Bihar, especially in Mithila region, they are called ‘doka’, at other places in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, they are called ‘ainthi’. They are boiled and the meat is extracted to cook a curry, typically eaten with rice.
  • A growing demand in South America, in particular, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay.
  • Snails are consumed by the Romani people in Europe. Snail soup is a Romani delicacy.

Read more on Wikipedia Snails as food (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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