International dining… giant snails anyone?

Well these past few days have been quite the treat when it comes to cuisine. Anyone who is used to me knows I love food from all over the world and cook lots of food from around the globe, recipes I’ve picked up on my travels (I don’t do package, resort based holidays I like to get among the locals) or from friends from overseas whose home cooking I’ve had the pleasure of sampling.

So, when I’m in London I’m obviously spoiled for choice when it comes to international cuisine, there are restaurants and food vendors from all of the corners of the Earth here and tonight I really want to eat Nigerian food, specifically giant African snails.

I love peppered snail, usually a couple of snails cooked in a light hot peppery sauce made withimg_22511 onions, tomatoes and fiery hot scotch bonnet peppers. I love the zing and freshness and the burn of these peppers and being used to eating spicy food I cope well for a non-native and I do cook a fair few Nigerian dishes using these peppers. Make no mistake these peppers are hot check them out on the chilli scale here.

peppers_scotchbon-m

Nick’s made us a reservation for 9pm where we’re going to meet up with a couple of old friends and has checked that snails are on the menu. I can barely wait I’m salivating, I don’t get to eat them very often. I like them because I love the taste but also they are more or less pure muscle so no fat and they are very much like a lamb heart kind of consistency but with a distinctive flavour. I have had some in the past which have tasted earthy but generally they don’t at all.

Usually I’d have snail as a starter but tonight I’m planning on a double helping with a huge salad as my main and only course.

Dining Nigerian style is not a rushed affair, usually there is a long wait for the meal in most places I’ve been and I don’t mind as it signifies that fresh prep is going on rather than a quick microwave warm up. I’ve never been rushed out of a Nigerian restaurant in my life, pretty much like Greek Island dining off season where you are  positively encouraged to stay for the night. However the downside of this can be that your table booking is not quite as you scheduled so we don’t yet have plans for afterwards in case we are still waiting for our table at midnight.

It’s usually a very social affair, with diners chatting to one another, regulars often bumping into friends. So I’m hugely looking forward to it and have no doubt that I’ll get to have some good conversation and meet some interesting characters. Something I really  miss about not living in London, the multi-culturalism, I just love it.

So back to snails, if you’re interested in seeing something about how they are prepped I just found this blog post which shows them being sourced and prepared. I’ve seen them de-slimed with lime juice before but here they use alum.

This is an interesting little article about the pest they are to Floridian farmers and how eating them like Africans (and me!) might be an option.invasive-tactics-giant-african-land-snail

I had a friend who used to have a couple in a tank as pets and they bred like crazy, when I suggested she sell them to a restaurant she was horrified but to be fair I didn’t see them making very interesting pets although their shells can be extremely pretty. If they are a pest then why not eat them rather than just pointlessly culling them? Apols to any veggies, I’m a carnie and although I’m rapidly cutting down the amount of meat I eat I doubt it will ever be removed altogether.

In case you’re wondering Nick spent quite a few years growing up in West Africa so he’s as open to the idea of eating giant snails as I am.

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8 thoughts on “International dining… giant snails anyone?”

    1. It’s much more dense than squid, more like lamb heart or even kidney (in texture but not in flavour). It’s not at all slimy. I guess if you think about it if they just roam about like the smaller variety do here that they were picked up to see what was inside and someone thought to eat it like they once upon a time did when they took fruits and nuts out of shells. I imagine they are a pretty freely available and cheap form of fatless protein. It’s so interesting how different indigenous people eat and what they eat. I read a article once about how our diet in ‘the west’ (hate that phrase) has lost so much of its goodness because we don’t eat what is around us anymore, we eat what is processed, brought to us and thrust down our throats by advertisers. I’m not at the stage yet where I’m going to start living off worms and whatever I can find in the garden but it’s easy to see why we have dietary related issues now we eat so much rubbish, yet what we would consider to be inedible were the foods that were the staples of our forefathers.

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  1. You just sent me on a google search for Nigerian restaurants but sadly there are none nearby. We do have excellent Ethiopian restaurants and with increasing migration from Africa, I’m sure a Nigerian one is not too far away. 🙂

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    1. It can be difficult to get hold of ingredients in places where there are not many Nigerians/West Africans let alone find a restaurant but there are some mail order companies which ship ingredients (might be worth Googling) and there are some good instructional videos on you tube. If you ever get to one ask about the ingredients, it’s very interesting stuff, you learn a lot about sustainability when you find out that they use almost every bit of a plant or animal for something or other. Very traditional resourceful methods, that’s true across Africa from what I’ve seen but then as I’ve previously commented, it’s typical of indigenous people who have passed on recipes and culinary skills for thousands of years.

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    1. It was lovely and as I expected, the experience was fulfilling not just the food. I’ll blog it in a minute, we’re on the journey home now so I have a good three and a half hours to spend typing and catching up with the blogging world 😀

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  2. I have never eaten any size of snail so the thought of an extra large one doesn’t do it for me, but I’m glad you enjoyed 🙂 I’m sure that like most things, they are an acquired taste!

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    1. Like most odd things I’ve tried I got myself into a position where I couldn’t say no. I had a friend whose aunt cooked me some as a special guest for dinner… how can you refuse something prepared in your honour? I had to eat it and liked it. Same happened when I ate Sheep’s Testicles, goat head, fish eyes and cow stomach stuffed with lamb … all prepared especially for me as a guest of honour as a visitor at a family meal and all thoroughly enjoyed.

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