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Hard Work, but Worth the Effort — Periwinkles

October 27, 2009

When you get adventurous with food, sometimes you just want to drag your friends along whether or not they know what they’re getting into. Lately I’ve been having this craving for something from my childhood in Thailand—Periwinkle snails—and I was thrilled to finally find that I could get some at Om Seafood in Portland and eager to expose my partner, Charles, and our good friends Tina and Steve to the allure of the sea snails.

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Live Periwinkles

In Thailand, I remember them being called “Hoy Juk.” In Thai, the word “Hoy” can be applied to clams, oysters, mussels, or in this case, sea snails. Thais just don’t have a different word to describe each of those critters like we do in English. The name “Juk” comes from the sound that you make trying to suck the critters out of their spiral shells.

Nowadays you don’t have to suck the critters out; you can use a toothpick. But I like the idea nonetheless. Periwinkles are found in tidal zones in many parts of the world and are less famous and smaller than their more renowned escargot cousins. But their flavor reminds me of clams, briny like the ocean, but sweeter and with more texture.

We started off dinner by serving our dinner guests some Green Lights to lower their inhibitions. When I called them earlier in the day to ask them to dinner, I told them I was making Dungeness crab. And technically I wasn’t lying—I was serving crab, but I was also going to be serving Periwinkles in two different versions with two different dipping sauces. By the time the first round of drinks was consumed, I fessed up to the second dish. There were no objections.

As a matter of fact, we all enjoyed the Periwinkles as much as the crab. There were extra napkins on the table that night because it was definitely a meal that you had to work at with your fingers.

One of the dishes is a more Western treatment, the other more Eastern. You decide which you like best and let us know.

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Periwinkles with Vermouth and Shallots

Periwinkles with Vermouth and Shallots and Herbed Butter Dipping Sauce

  1. 1 pound live Periwinkle snails rinsed in cold water and drained. (If they’re dead, they’ll slide out of their shells. Discard dead ones. The live ones will cling tightly to their shells)
  2. 2 shallots thinly sliced
  3. 2 tablespoons of butter for the Periwinkles, a stick of butter for the dipping sauce
  4. 2 teaspoons Spice Island Italian Seasoning
  5. 1 teaspoon garlic seasoning
  6. 1 cup dry Vermouth
  • In the microwave or small saucepan, melt the butter, add the Italian seasoning and garlic seasoning and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.
  • Over medium heat, add the shallots and cook until they turn translucent.
  • Add the vermouth and bring to a boil.
  • Add the Periwinkles, stir a few times, cover with lid and cook 3 minutes.
  • Serve immediately with the herbed butter dipping sauce.
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Periwinkles with Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime Leaves

Periwinkles with Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime Leaves and Garlic Dipping Sauce

For Periwinkles

  1. 1 pound live Periwinkle snails rinsed in cold water and drained
  2. 1 cup chicken stock
  3. 2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into thin diagonal pieces
  4. 4 Kaffir lime leaves

For dipping sauce

  1. 4 cloves garlic
  2. 1 red cayenne pepper
  3. 1 lime
  4. 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • Prepare the dipping sauce by peeling and cutting the garlic into small pieces. Cut cayenne pepper into small pieces. Pound the garlic and cayenne together in a mortar and pestle until the garlic turns into a pulpy paste
  • In a small bowl, combine the juice from 1 lime and the fish sauce. Add the garlic and cayenne paste from the mortar and pestle. Mix well and set aside until you’re ready to serve the Periwinkles
  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. Stir briefly, then add the Periwinkles and stir for a minute, then cover with lid and cook another 2 minutes
  • Serve immediately with the dipping sauce

The garlic dipping sauce reminds me a lot of wasabi. It is definitely aromatic and an intense (in a good way) experience.

Our dinner guests brought a bottle of Left Coast Cellar’s Pinot Gris, which went perfectly with the meal.

— Vic

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. SteveM permalink
    October 28, 2009 7:46 am

    It’s all about the texture and the dipping sauce

  2. Elinor permalink
    October 28, 2009 9:51 pm

    Sounds interesting and tasty.

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