Sunday, May 13, 2012

Telescope Snail Stew (Bagungon sa Gata)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Yup, you read it right, a snail dish. I'm posting this dish mostly for nostalgia and nothing else. I can only assume that most of my readers will be horrified at the thought of eating a fresh water snail except maybe for my French friend Cedric. However, being it Mother's Day, I had to cook this dish which was something I would ask my Mom to cook for me whenever I had the chance to visit home. Since I live at home now and my Mom passed away some time ago, I felt duty-bound to recreate this dish staying true to how she made it for me the last time in 2004.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The telescopse snail or bagungon in our local dialect is definitely an acquired taste. I only ever touched this dish when I was already in college. I abhorred it growing up but not really knowing why, I tried it once and I really loved it since then. One thing to note is that the dish is indeed a poor man's dish. These univalves are found almost anywhere by the marshy spots along the seashore. Cooked in this stew, you only need the stalks and the root of a taro plant which also grows like a weed in most places. The liquid used to bring this stew all together is coconut milk, again, a local ingredient. I really never found this dish in Manila where the food is a hodgepodge of eastern and western cuisine. I might safely say that this stew is indeed a regional dish of which I am quite proud of.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I'm using fresh coconut milk which I obtained by buying 2 mature coconut heads. The market which sells them will cut them in half for you, drain the liquid out and grind the meat for you. To extract the coconut milk, add 2 cups of water into the ground coconut meat in a large bowl and massage with your hands. Take a handful of the coconut meat and squeeze out the milk and transfer to another bowl. Keep squeezing the milk out until you are left with a fairly thick extraction. Using a sieve, filter out the residual ground coconut meat from the milk and squeeze out the last bit of coconut milk from the remaining pressed coconut meat in the sieve. You should have about 3 cups of thick coconut milk. Set aside this first extraction.

Add another 2 cups of water to the same ground coconut meat following the same procedure to extract a second batch of coconut milk. It will be much lighter in consistency but this will be used as the cooking liquid instead of water. You should get another 3 cups of coconut milk.

The snails also have to be prepared for cooking. The snail has only one opening and in order for you to pry out the cooked meat, you need to suck on the top opening. However, since the shell is solid, you end up creating a vacuum which means that your effort is pointless unless you create another opening. To do this, you clip the end of the shell. You also have to discard the carapace attached to the mouth end of the snail that covers the entrance of the shell. However, you do this once the snail is cooked when you've pried the meat out of the shell.
Telescope Snail Stew

6 cup telescope snail
10 cups taro stalks, cleaned and diced into 2-inch lengths
2 cups taro root, peeled and sliced in half
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp oil
6-7 cups coconut milk (Ist and 2nd extraction)
salt and pepper
1 stalk of lemongrass
3 pcs batwan (optional)

1. Prepare the snails by chipping the ends with a butcher knife. Wash and set
    aside in the fridge.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil at medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and
    season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened.

3. Add the batwan pieces if using and the lemongrass. Saute for one minute.
    Add the taro stalks and roots and stir well. Season with salt.

4. Reserve 2 cups of the thick coconut milk and add the remaining coconut
    milk to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower the
    heat to a simmer. Cover.

5. Once boiling, uncover the pot and allow the taro stalks to soften. This will
    take about 30 minutes. Increase the heat back to medium and continue to
    cook until very thick. Stir every now and then mashing the taro stalks but
    keeping the root intact. Check for flavor.

6. Add the reserved thick coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the snails and
    cook for about 5 minutes. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. Serve
    with steamed rice.

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