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#131 Snails

Posted March 23rd, 2010 by Peter · 9 Comments

This is a guest submission from “Lamstah” that was so interesting that we had to feature it and make it a post. We hope you enjoy this look into Asian Snail Etiquette and Lam’s story about trying to unravel its mysteries.

“Food is my favorite topic so going to a food court of a different culture other than American is interesting to me. As I drove into the Little Saigon where the Vietnamese community located, I wondered what kind of traditional food they would sell there. I was expecting to see similar traditional food that Panda Express would sell in their stores but it turned out to be completely different and extraordinary.


I arrived at Phuoc Loc Tho, which translates to Asian Garden Mall, and saw two Chinese lions statues that guarded the entrance of the mall. As I entered the mall, the saltiness of fish sauce pulled me toward the food court. I hurried by the Vietnamese music store, Buddha statues store, Ao dai store, and finally reached the end of the mall where the food court is located. The first thing that caught my eyes were the round food that looked like shells. As I moved closer, I noticed that those round things were snails, and not just one type of snails but many different snails displayed behind a glass wall. I wondered if anyone eats snails; I turned and I saw three Asian women around fifty years old circling a dish of snails at the table next to me. The dish had snails that looked like one-inch screws and were covered in a white-sauce. I wanted to observe those three women so I picked a table next to them and settled down.

I pretended to use my phone but my eyes were on those three women. I saw one of the women, who was facing me, pick up a snail and suck through the end of snail’s tail. She started to beat her chest as she put down the snail. Her gesture looked like she was choking because she was sucking so hard that it went straight down her throat before she could chew it. Her two other friends started laughing and I could not hold in a small giggle. The second woman, whose right side was facing me, learned from her friend and started to suck her first snail slowly and steadily.

I guess the snails were not made for soft suckers because I saw that woman’s face turned red and she still could not get the snail out. She was a stubborn woman because she was sucking on the snail for at least three minutes before she gave up. The third woman, whose left side faced me, looked like an experienced eater because one suck was all it took for her to get the snail out. I looked away from their table because I did not want to show them that I was smiling widely. The reason for this was because the food court on a Thursday afternoon was empty, and anyone who was standing twenty feet away from those three women could hear the sucking noises from their table. After I calmed myselfbb2down, I turned my head and I caught the eyes of the woman who was facing me. I thought I was in trouble for staring at them eating, but she waved her hand and told me to come join her. At that moment, I completely forget my mother’s words of wisdom “Don’t take candies from strangers.”, and nodded my head. For some reasons, I felt safe when I looked at their friendly and happy faces so I left my table and walked toward them.

The first woman offered me the snails as the other two women said “it’s good, it’s good.” I smiled politely and picked one up. It was scary as I pulled the snail up to my mouth and it was awkward because those three women’s wrinkle eyes were on me. I copied the way they ate and started to suck on the snail. I could taste the white sauce and found that it was coconut milk. I had difficulty with the snail because I was sucking it incredibly hard that the coconut sauce started to drip down my hand and I was making so much noise. I gave up after a few seconds, said “thank you” and nicely put the shell on the trash-dish as they gave me a look of “amateur”.

I went home and did research on the snails that I saw at the food court. I found that the snails that they were eating are not the ones that crawl across my yard every morning. They do not have antenna on their heads or live on grass, and they are not from America. They were Blunt Greeper that live in Asian rivers and feed on small shrimps. Blunt Greepers are neighbors to clams and mussels, except that they live in different shell shapes. Before I found out about the Blunt Greepers, I thought that eating snails was bizarre but then I thought that Americans eat saltwater clams so it is normal for Asian people to eat freshwater clam-like Blunt Greeper.”

Thanks Lam!

Have you ever tried snail? Do you have any funny stories to tell about your experiences? Comment below and share your insight with the rest of the SAPL Family.

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Tags: Activities · Animals · Cuisine · Culture · Customs · Environment · Featured Topic · Food & Beverage · Habits · People · Vietnamese

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chinamerican // May 7, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Snail is ok but I don’t really like them. They were stir-fried and done in black bean sauce and they are pretty tiny so my family makes a practise of licking/sucking on the shells and then sucking out the flesh or picking it out with toothpicks. Don’t eat the soft, end parts.

  • 2 minh // Jul 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    snails is mostly a womans food from what ive learned. ate them once, pretty good but since im a man i prolly wont be caught eating them again.

  • 3 Bobby // Aug 11, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    In China they eat these little snails, and the Chinese suck them out of the shell, but unfortunately, it’s not a skill that I picked up. Once, at a restaurant, my Chinese friend yelled out, “Hey, can you get toothpicks for this foreigner, because he’s not able to suck out the snail!”

  • 4 Alex // Sep 8, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Thats super funny if it wuz me i would be really embarassed = ) lmfao!

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  • 6 Viet from PDX // Oct 12, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    FYI, Phuc Loc Tho is actually the name of the 3 statues in front of the mall. They are chinese gods, Phuc being the god of Luck, Loc being the god of Prosperity, and Tho being the god of long life.

  • 7 JONES // Feb 16, 2011 at 3:16 am

    being the god of long life.

  • 8 tom // Dec 4, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Yeap, they eat everything. First Snail, then they drop the S and they eat the nail too.

  • 9 mmm snails // Apr 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Snails in a tomato-chili stew….that is the way to go

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