Snail meats are low in fat and cholesterol but rich in protein, iron, Vitamin B12 and other amino acids. Snail meat is also a great source of selenium, magnesium and omega-3. Snail delicacies are very healthy and an excellent alternative to red meat especially when prepared well.
Snails are prepared in various ways, with various condiments in many parts of the world including France, Italy, China, Bahamas, USA and of course Africa.
Escargot, of French origin is the name given to snail delicacy in many parts of the world like France, USA, Cargolade in the northern Catalan region of Spain, Lumache alla Romana in Italy and sate kakul in India.
In Nigeria, snails are called Ekwong in Efik; Igbin’ in Yoruba; katantawa in Hausa and Congo meat in some parts of Africa.
Snail delicacies can be enjoyed as an appetizer and as a main dish or served as protein to accompany rice and other dishes.
Processing Your Snails For Cooking
The outcome of your snail delicacies starts right from how you process or wash your snails.
Snails produce a lot of slime and if not washed properly, can affect the outcome of your snail meat delicacy.
Snail delicacy can only be enjoyed if its crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, stone and shell fragments free.
They have little taste of their own making it easy for them to adopt the sauce in which they are cooked in.
I usually add the fresh snails in a pot of cold water and cover them up. When the snails start to come out of their shell, I bring the pot to boil.
This makes it easier for me to remove the snails without breaking the shells; the shells are still useful as calcium supplement to other snails and livestock feeds.
It is important to note that what you use to wash your snails off their slimes may affect the outcome of your snail meat; it could become rubbery when cooked.
You can now get washed and processed snails from the local markets and grocery stores although at an increased price than raw snails.
To wash my snails, I prefer using lime or lemon with salt as against the conventional alum.
This is because they are natural keepers of the snail meat texture while alum makes the snail meat soft after the initial hardness.
If you are purchasing the processed snail meat form stores, I still advise that you wash your snails with lime because there is tendency that the slime may still remain.
The cleaning would not just be as rigorous as washing a fresh snail.
Healthy Methods To Cook Your Snail Meat
Snails are healthy and nutritious sources of protein and amino acids with less cholesterol and fat.
However, cooking methods usually add the fats and cholesterol back making the nutritional value lesser than before cooking.
For healthy snail delicacies, it is advised that the amount of cooking fat, oil should be reduced and the use of more healthy oils to cook.
There are many spices that can be added to enrich the snail meat taste and texture without reducing the nutritional value.
A method of cooking that I don’t particularly enjoy is frying snails; it splashes oil, quickly turns the oil into a sticky texture and changes the texture of the meat too.
Cooking time for snails can also affect the texture of the meat. It is usually recommended that cooking time for snails should be between 10 -15 minutes depending also on the type of delicacy and when the snails are added.
Time the meat spends cooking determines the taste and how crunchy it will be.
Snail meat can be made into stews, soups, barbecue and as condiments in other delicacies. Now, lets see two ways you can enjoy snail delicacy in Nigeria!
Nigerian Snail Delicacy
The giant African land snail is the most common specie enjoyed in Nigeria. They are big and cut into half and still make a statement especially when garnished with vegetables and pepper.
After washing your snails free from slime, shell fragments, offals and stones, it is time to prepare them into mouth watering healthy cuisines for yourself, friends, families and probably your guests and clients.
Nigerian Snail Pepper Soup
Snail Pepper Soup is a delicacy for stylish people. This is because snail pepper soup is not very common like other varieties of Nigerian pepper soup.
You barely see pepper soup joints, bars or restaurant that sells snail pepper soup. Snails are rather added to soups like egusi or vegetable and also prepared as peppered snails to go with drinks.
Snail pepper soup is therefore a delight and expensive delicacy because it is a special order that requires expertise.
Snails are slimy therefore this is one reason why the soups are not as common as people are squirmish about it.
Recipe For Nigerian Snail Pepper soup
- 4 big sized snails cut in halves
- 1 small onion
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- 2 seasoning cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Scent leaves (Efinrin in Yoruba)
- Pepper soup spice
- Wash snail and place in a pot.
- Add water just to cover the snail.
- Add chopped onions and cook the snails for about 5 minutes
- Add salt, pepper and seasoning cubes to taste.
- Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add vegetable oil, pepper soup spice and scent leaves (efinrin)
- Stir and cook for about 3 minutes or until a fork can pass through snails.
- Bring down and serve hot.
- You can serve it alone, with rice, yam or corn pudding (agidi, eko)
Nigerian Snail Stew
Nigerian Snail Stew is one of menu items that is first to finish at occasions. Almost everyone at the party will want to take snails when its on the menu although in Nigerian events, it is usually reserved for the high table.
The Nigerian Snail Stew is a delicacy that can easily go wrong if you do not process your snails well or they are overcooked.
Recipe For Nigerian Snail Stew
- 4 big sized snails cut in halves
- Blended tomato and pepper
- 2 medium sized onions
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- Thyme leaves
- Cameron Pepper
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- Seasoning cubes (to taste)
- Salt (to taste)
- Wash snails and place in a pot
- Add chopped onions and water to cover the snails and boil for 3 minutes
- Add your seasoning cubes, salt, thyme and curry powder and cover for another 5 minutes reducing the heat.
- Turn off the heat completely steaming the snails.
- In a separate pot, pour in the vegetable oil and add chopped ring onions for about 1 minute. The onions should still retain its colour.
- Take out some onions and set apart for garnishing. Add your blended pepper and fry until the water dries up.
- Your blended pepper depends on how ‘hot‘ you want your delicacy to be.
- Add your steamed snail broth into the stew until the oil can be seen on top of the stew.
- Check for your seasoning and salt.
- Pour in your steamed snails and cook for about 5 minutes
- Turn off the heat and serve with rice, plantains and other dishes of your choice.
Snail meat has to be crunchy and moist on the inside. When overcooked, they are soft and have a pretty funny taste.
Snails crawl on the floor and take in tiny stones so washing and processing your snails properly will eliminate your delicacy having stones.
Whether in pepper soup, stew or accompanying protein in dishes, snails are a delight to the taste buds.
Overcooking them however reduces how you enjoy it as well as not washing properly.
Which of these snail delicacy did you enjoy most? Let’s hear your opinions in the comments section!