22 January 2008

A friend went to Nigeria and all I got was igbin* shells


When a Nigerian friend of the family was leaving for her home country in December, I asked her to bring back some snail shells. About a week ago, she returned with these shells. I am not familiar with the taxonomy of giant African snails, but I am assuming these are Achatina achatina.


These snails had been collected last December in the town of Isua-Akoko in Ondo State of Nigeria. My friend said they lived in forests, but since she wasn't the one who had collected them, I couldn't get any more specific locality information from her. But when she revealed that they had actually consumed the hapless snails that once occupied these shells while they were still in Nigeria, I got her to give me an abbreviated description of how she prepared her snail dish. I don't think I will ever cook snails, but it's good to know such things. Next time the subject of cooking giant African snails comes up at a party, I will have something to say. So, here is how she did it.
She boiled the snails for about 10 minutes, then removed them from their shells. Then she rubbed and washed them with lime juice (or whatever citrus fruit was available locally) to remove the slime. She cut the cleaned snails into small pieces and then boiled them again, but this time with vegetables, some sort of local melon and hot peppers to create a soup.
When I asked her if they ate the entire snail, she didn't know how to describe the parts they discarded. So I drew a picture of what a snail removed from its shell would look like and she pointed at the organs that would be in the spire of the shell.

A review of a Nigerian restaurant in Brooklyn in the Village Voice, described the texture of the cooked Achatina as "unbelievably rubbery". Thank you very much, but if I am ever in Nigeria, I think I will stick to vegetables and melons.

*The word for snail in the language of the people of Isua-Akoko.


Snail said...

It's worth checking out the ingredients labels on tins of escargot because they ain't always what they purport to be. Oh, they're snails all right but they're often Achatina from Indonesia. Small ones, of course!

Anonymous said...

Hi Aydin; The snail is Archachatina marginata. Achatina Achatina has a more pointed spire which is not pink. Pete Krull


Pete, thanks for the correction.

pascal said...

How many Punctum minutissimum shells could you fit inside that shell? Heck, how many would fit inside the eggs of Achatina?

Taco said...

Hello Aydin,

I enjoy reading your blogs :-) I agree with Pete that it is probably Archachatina marginata. This story brought a memory back to my mind. A few years ago I visited a flea market and there was a woman who had several large Achatinid houses on display on the table with the rest of her merchandise. When I asked for the price she informed me they were not for sale but just decoration. Her mother who came from Nigeria had ate the animals and then given her the empty shells.

I breed Achatina's as well :-) They are interesting animals.

Greetings from the Netherlands, Taco

Deniz Bevan said...

Are you sure they aren't banned in the states? check out the haggis ban : http://jennyswritething.blogspot.com/


It is illegal to import live Achatina or any other live snail into the U.S. without a permit, but as far as I know there is no restriction against bringing in empty shells as long as they are not of protected species.