There is a saying like this: “The best snails found in October, the best gastronomic people found in Hanoi”. Indeed, at this time, in Hanoi, from peddled wares to restaurant, there would be plenty of people come to enjoy the snails.
In the past, snail is just a common and rustic food. In lunar October, when the weather is cool down and even cold, and the rivers become dry, people in the village would go groping for snails.
There are many kinds of snail: helix, medium-size edible snail, large edible snail, stone snail…After being caught, the snails would be soaked in water for a feel day before being cooked. Usually in the countryside, there are only some simple dishes from snails such as boiled snail, snail gruel or snail soup.
These days, the menu of dish making from snails has become more diversifying. People have created tens different dishes from snails. There are some dishes as simple as hot fried snail, snail ball with piper lolot or snail cooked with vermicelli. In addition, there are some that are very luxurious, served in the restaurant like snail meat roll, snail sausage…
Yet, boiled snail with citronella is always an appetizing dish in the cold weather of lunar October. Actually, there are not many steps in making the dish, but you have to be clever to boil the snails so that their meats would be greasy and crunchy.
Before boiling, we should soak snails in rice water to make them greasier. Next, soak them in clean water with some grapefruit and lemon leaves to make their mouth open and release all the soil. Then, wash the snails until they impeccably clean. However, when washing snails, we should be careful not to lift them up too strong, because doing so could make their bowel be broken after being boiled.
The next step is putting snails into the pot, adding some lemon or grapefruit leaves and then lining some citronella leaves at the bottom of the pot and some at the top to cover the snails. When boiling, we just need to pour a little water to remain the natural sweet of the snail’s meat. We should also notice when snails are done to a turn. If they were overdone, they would be tough. Conversely, they would not open the mouth and when we tease the meat to eat, it would be broken.
The flavor of the dish also depends much on the sauce. Making the sauce so that it suits with the moreish and crunchy taste of the snails is the best interesting thing of the dish. First, the fish sauce must be a good one. Then, we will add some monosodium glutamate and a few spoons of clean water. After that, add some sugar, ginger and chili. Also, slice some lemon leaves into toothpick shape, and cut the citronella leaves into small pieces, then put all into the mixture of sauce mentioned above. If you want it to be sour, then you can add some lemon juice.
Maybe, how you eat the boiled snails also make the dish more delicious. The ideal place to eat boiled snails on the sidewalk, and the ideal time is in when it begins to turn from autumn to winter. Besides, you should eat when the snails are still hot, with your bare hands, and using a thorn of the grapefruit tree to pull the meat from the shell.
Really, people in Hanoi still are the most astronomic one. Common and simple dishes have become favorite dishes. Certainly, it would be unforgettable for ones who have been to Hanoi and have a chance to enjoy the steaming hot boiled snails at some pavement inn.