Thursday, April 20, 2006

Disgusting Escargots

Last night, we celebrated someone's birthday at a relatively new steakhouse. It was then the birthday boy decided to order Escargots for appertisers.

Escargots, in French cuisine, is a dish of cooked land snails, usually served as an appetizer. In France, escargots are typically only eaten on festive occasions.

The French word escargot (meaning snail) is almost invariably used on restaurant menus (especially in North America) to refer to snails as a food item, though in most Commonwealth countries one can also order snails in English.

Not all species of snail are edible, but many (116 different species) are. Even among the edible species, the palatability of the flesh varies from species to species. In France, two species native to France are normally used for preparing escargots. One of these, the "petit-gris" Helix aspersa, is common in temperate climates worldwide.

Because snails eat soil, decayed matter, and a variety of leaves, the contents of their stomachs can be toxic to humans. Therefore, before they can be cooked, the snails must first be prepared by purging them of the contents of their digestive system. The process used to accomplish this varies, but generally involves a combination of fasting and purging. The methods most often used can take several days. Farms producing Helix aspersa for sale exist in Europe and in the United States. Farm-raised snails are typically fed a diet of ground cereals.

Typically, the snails are removed from their shells, gutted, cooked (usually with garlic butter), and then poured back into the shells together with the butter and sauce for serving, often on a plate with several shell-sized depressions. Special snail tongs (for holding the shell) and snail forks (for extracting the meat) are also normally provided.

Extracted from wikipedia

Question : Who was the first fellow who said " I will pick up this snail and eat it" and gave birth to this dish?

He asked if I have tried escargots before or not. I said yes. So we ordered 1/2 dozen escargots served in garlic butter.

Actually I was fooled the last time I ate 'escargots'. It was during chinese new year, and we had dinner at some seafood restaurant. Someone ordered baked snails with cheese, so I thought the snails were actually escargots. When the dish was served, I thought : it doesn't look to bad......

The shells were kinda small (unlike what I imagined it would be, eating real huge snails....yuck!!) and the texture and colour was similar to eating la-la (clams), only a larger and twisty version. It was actually very tasty.

So I had baked snails (presuming they were escargots) another time, this time baked with cheese as well. So then I thought, I finally overcame the the disgusting thoughts of eating escargots.......until last night.

The escargots were served, right up to the snail tongs and snail forks (I was impressed!!). So I happily use the snail tongs to pick up one shell, poked the fork into it to extract the flesh, and lo and behold!!! The flesh was BLACK!!!

It was too much for me to bear, I had to ask the birthday boy if this is really how a proper escargot look like, and all he could tell me was "I think so" - some help!!!

Anyway, no choice (Since already took it out) so I gotta eat it (drum roll)

It wasn't very tasty, with a slight bitter aftertaste (I wondered if they cleaned the snail thoroughly or not - refer to wikipedia write-up). Not sure if it's due to the lack of skills to cook it, or it's just plain awful.

This is the photo taken of the escargot shells after consumption. I was told by my collegue's husband the restaurants tend to reuse the shells. The shells look similar to that i've eaten at the seafood restaurant, that's why i didn't suspect anything till I removed the flesh.

So i guess escargots do taste disgusting after all - from the process of preparing it, right up to the looks, taste and texture.

Conclusion 1 : Sea snails - OK, Land snails - NOT OK!!!

Conclusion 2 : Never judge an escargot by its shell.

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