Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What the Whelk...?

Whelks are large sea snails and growing in popularity as upscale food- some prominent food sources are calling it the next oyster served straight up with just a splash of lemon juice. I came across whelks for the first time in Korean supermarkets. They are readily sold in cans dressed with a sweet savoury oyster sauce, and cooked in prepared packages, freshly gouged in the seafood section. I grabbed a fresh package and two things came top of mind- deep-fried fritters, like conch fritters (mmm.. I still remember them from Bahamas way back when..), and boiled and sliced to top a nice green salad. I did both and the results were deliciously wonderful! My kids went gaga over the fritters and knowing they were made with snails presented something exotic, wierd and cool for them.

Credit: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Whelk Fritters
Makes about 15 fritters

1 lb. fresh whelks, coarsely diced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green onion, sliced
2 cups canola or vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper for heat or use paprika for colour

Place whelk, onions and garlic into a bowl. Prepare batter by mixing flour, milk, egg and seasoning in another bowl. Add the whelk mixture into the batter and stir well.

Prepare the oil for deep-frying. Pour oil into a saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. The oil is ready when a skewer is placed in the centre and small bubbles easily form around it. Carefully drop spoonfuls of whelk and batter into the hot oil. Fry until both sides are golden brown about five to seven minutes. Let drain on paper towel-lined tray before serving.

Serve with a dipping sauce made with 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp. ketchup, juice of half a lime, salt and pepper to taste and a dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

The healthier non-fried option, but no less tasty is whelk on green salad. Simply boil whelks for four minutes if they don't already come cooked, slice them up, then top on green salad with some chopped onion.  Toss with a simple dressing of light soy sauce, rice vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, sesame oil and a drizzling of gochujang!

Slightly chewy tender morsels of whelk tastes sea-delicious on a bed of refreshing greens!

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