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A recipe for cooking the golden apple snail

January 23, 2012

In a previous blog we remarked that the South American golden apple snail  (Pomacea canaliculata, ‘hoi cherry’) is the most severe pest in Thai rice fields, and so many Thai farmers spray their rice fields with chemicals. Thanks to garden school student Emily Driskill from Washington an interview was made with the Seehamongkol family who run Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai. Khun Densak proudly declared that in Esan (northeastern Thailand) they have no problems with this snail since the farmers eat them! We always heard the golden apple snail was disgusting and so any attempts to export it as ‘escargot’ was futile. To test the gastronomical value we asked for a cooking demonstration next lunch. This is how Khun Densak prepared the snails:

1. Collect seven snails.

2. Boil in water for five minutes.

3. Use a knife to scoop out the soft parts and discard the shell and the hard operculum (the ‘door’).

4. Remove everything orange (the gonads or egg masses).

5. Dig out and discard the bulb-like, hard structure of the head which Khun Densak calls ‘the eye’ (in reality the buccal mass composed of the mouth with its calcareous jaws and the pharynx). According to Khun Densak, some people back in Roi-Et in Esan eat the buccal mass too, and as a result they get drunk! We have never heard about this hallucinogenic reaction before! Is it true? We did not dare to test that. Please share your experience with us!

6. Cut the remaining meat in pieces.

7. Add some living adult red weaver ants.

8. Add 4-5 leaves of mint.

9. Add two raw shallots.

10. Add one teaspoon of fried sticky rice powder.

11. Add three sprays of fish sauce.

12. Add a pinch of salt.

13. Add some chili.

14. Add 1 teaspoon of Esan anchovy (pla ra).

15. Add one chopped spring onion.

16. Serve cold and decorate with mint leaves.

This dish was actually good, reminding one of mussels. We asked the maid Gong from Ayuttaya if she ever ate these snails, but she said she did not. Our past experience from interviews with Thai farmers is that they answer the question exactly, and rarely add any vital information voluntarily. We therefore rephrased the question: “Does anyone in your former neighbourhood eat these snails?”. She said they certainly do, often frying them. We are surprised that the literature claims the reason for these snails being such a menace in the rice fields is the absence of natural predators, while man seems like a good one.

Take seven snails…

Here are two hard, bulb-like buccal masses. Remove them or you will be drunk! This is not necessary when cooking the indigenous black Thai snail Pila polita (‘hoi kong’).

The dish is not ready yet, red weaver ants are still crawling.

Bon appétit!

Eric Danell & Emily Driskill

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2012 2:31 AM

    Thanks for these instructions. I would like to try this with the African snails that have naturalized In Hawaii. Here and other locations where rat lung worm is established, the snails must be cooked thoroughly (and vegetables from the garden must be washed extremely well) to kill and remove this parasite. Rat lung worm is a very ugly and potentially fatal parasite in humans. One of the reproductive stages occurs in snails and slugs. Thorough cooking kills the parasite, but I didn’t see a frying step in this recipe, just the boiling. I’ve been hand-picking the African snails from my garden and removing them to a safe distance. As I understand it from works of the history of Hawaii and the southern Pacific that I have edited, the African snail was introduced to the South Pacific for food by the Japanese military during World War II. They are a serious agricultural pest in this area and in Hawaii, where they were accidentally transported on cargo. Now I have a recipe. Eric, if you have any comment on eliminating the rat lung worm parasite, I love to hear it.

    • January 23, 2012 10:40 AM

      Thank you for letting us know that the African landsnail is edible too. We had plenty of those last rainy year, but normal years they are quite rare due to the drought. Yes, Thailand has the rat lungworm nematode too. Reducing numbers of snails and rodents are important. Rodents should be reduced by making sure food supplies are scarce and by giving harmless snakes and raptors a refuge. Make sure the rodents do not have access to the attic via climbers and tree branches.

      Slugs and snails are greatly reduced by the presence of chicken and guineafowl, and by wild animals such as herons, fireflies, crabs, mongoose and snakes. The African land snail is difficult to open even for a hungry chicken, so you may help them by crushing the snails.

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