Friday, November 5, 2010

Waiter, there's a snail in my paella

While spending a few days in València, Spain, I was surprised at the general lack of snails and slugs even in the grassiest of places along the riverbanks. A cursory search in the huge public park resulted in the finding of just three Cochlicella barbara (L., 1758) specimens on a nightly 'romp', but then, the well-maintained and intensely cultivated area was perhaps not the optimum environment for worthwhile molluscan discoveries.

Part of Valencia from above

The Valencians have many exquisite traditional dishes, frequently making ample use of seafood and landsnails. In a particular market, I was surprised to see that three species of the latter are farmed and packaged separately for consumption. These are Theba pisana (Müller, 1774), Otala punctata (Müller, 1774) and Cantareus aspersus (Müller, 1774) (pictured beneath in respective order). All three species are also present in Malta, yet here only the latter is consumed.

I later found a sub-adult Otala punctata in my Valencian paella take-away.


  1. That's interesting! I didn't realise that there might be a market for Theba pisana. We've got millions of 'em in Australia. Maybe a new export market for us?!

  2. Uggh how disgusting! I've got this snail and slug phobia and I've had quite a number of unlucky incidents with snails. I even had very close encounters with them in a number of dishes...(obviously not the ones I cooked)

  3. I am surprised that the snail in the paella still had its shell. I suppose sucking the snail's body out of the shell is half the fun!

  4. Snail - it's also the commonest snail in Malta but it's never eaten. Just used as fishing bait sometimes.

    Zen - ha ha, I assume you aren't enjoying so many of my recent posts, then :)

    Aydin - they're always served in their shell as far as I know, it looks better than a green-grey mass in a plate :)

    I'm not a fan of cooked snails, I hate the texture. Their taste is however fairly neutral and depends a lot on the condiments used.

  5. According to locals over here in Southeast Asia, serving cooked snails in their shells give an extra edge to the snail's "deliciousness".

    Apparently, they said that by sucking the animal out of its shell, air is introduced into the mixture of snail meat and gravy and brings out the aroma.

    I wonder if that's the same in Spain too?

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