Sea Snails Simmered in Sake Soy Sauce 清酒鼓油煮花螺
By Ellen L. Published: 2016-06-11
Here's an super easy to make, cool and refreshing sea fresh dish for shellfish lovers to dream about for the hot months ahead! We first had these lovelies in a neighborhood restaurant and were so enchanted by these tasty savory sweet tidbits that we decided to try to make it ourselves. Lucky for us that we live in the harbor city of Hong Kong where the fabulous local wet markets supply the intrepid shopper with endless varieties of super fresh seafoods. And thus we were able to source out these shelled treats and make our version of Sea Snails Simmered in Sake and Soy Sauce 清酒鼓油煮花螺, the perfect summer seafood treat to prepare for a dinner or, even better, to have with as a snack with a chilled glass of wine. Ah...those lazy summer days!
The shellfish we used for this seafood dish is the humble sea snail, specifically the Babylonia Areolata, known as 花螺, 風螺, or 鳳螺. But you could use any edible type of fresh (or frozen) sea snail (also known as whelk) that you can get your hands on, there really are so many varieties! The Babylonia Areolata are small snails, about 1 1/4" big, so do note that if you use larger or smaller snails you will need to adjust the recipe to suit. When adjusting the recipe the important thing is that there is enough liquid in the pot to just cover your snails.
Snails, in case you didn't know, are quite delicious, famously eaten by the french but anonymously eaten by many other cultures with just as much gusto. The sea snail has the extra benefit of being without the goo that coats its land locked cousins. Sea snail meat is sea sweet and rich, the texture being tenderly chewy (if you don't over cook it). It is an addictive taste, a treat that you might find that you cannot stop eating. This dish is actually often presented quite spicy with the addition of some chili oil or sauce. We, however, have fallen in love with this intense, winey, sweet yet savory version, more delicate and appreciative, we think, of the sea sweet tender freshness of the sea snails.
The sea snails will need a bath of around 30 mins in a basin of cold water so that any sand inside their shells are expelled. That and a bit of a scrub and rinse under cold water will have your sea snails ready for the pot. The shells of the Babylonia Areolata are so pretty, aren't they? My little girl wants a necklace of these and I have promised to save the shells for her the next time. But if you do decide to repurpose the shells, be forewarned that you will have to boil the shells in many changes of water before the oil/soy aromas clinging to the shells are gone.
And then the art of eating the snail! There's something about the shelling and eating of sea snails that's so soothing and jolly and conducive to the flow of conversation among friends with a glass of chilled wine or a cool beer. First choose a pretty shell. Peel off the little hard brown protective tab that covers the opening. The best way to eat sea snails is to have either tooth pick or seafood pick at hand to stab deep into the spiral curve of the shell, right into the meat.
Then just lever the meat out, going around with the direction of the spiral and you will see the sweet meat twist neatly out of the shell. Of course the spiral of snail meat will break after a while, it's really hard to get the whole snail out of that infinite spiral. I've only ever got it out (almost) completely once! Once the meat is out just dip it back into that savory sweet, winey sauce that you simmered it in and then pop it in your mouth. Yummilicious!
So easy to make this savory sweet (and spicy if you like) shellfish dish! Try it with all kinds of sea snails, whelks, conches, etc and see if you don't become as addicted to them as we are! Happy Chilled Out Summer Days!
Sea Snails Simmered in Sake Soy Sauce 鼓油灼東風螺|鳳螺
20 sea snails
2 1/2 cups sake
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp chili oil (optional)
Soak the snails in cold water for 30 mins to let the snails expel any sand. Wash and scrub the snails thoroughly with cold water. Drain. Heat up wok over high heat, when hot add in the sea snails. Stir fry for 30 secs over high heat, then add in the sake, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and chili oil (if using). Cover and when sauce boils cook medium heat for 3-5 mins.
Let cool to room temperature then put into fridge until thoroughly chilled. Serve straight from the fridge.
Tip: To cool down the cooked snails quickly prepare a large bowl of cool or iced water. Submerge the bowl of cooked snails halfway into the cold water. The surrounding cold water will quickly dissipate the heat from the snails.
More Refreshing Chilled Seafood Dishes at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Boiled Fresh Octopus 白灼新鮮八爪魚
Chinese Steamed Eggplant 蒜蓉蒸茄子
Chinese Chilled Crab with Vinegar Dip 凍花蟹
Chinese Ma Lan Tou (Kalimeris Indica) Tofu Salad 涼伴香乾馬蘭頭
Jellyfish Salad 涼拌海蜇