I am blogger, romantic comedy writer, freelance photographer, and music lover from the Philippines.
Also that everyone should eat and drink and find enjoyment for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.
— Ecclesiastes 3:13
I didn't set out to eat river snails. Had I known what was in the dish my Chinese friend cooked for me when she invited me to her house, I might have hesitated—but of course I didn't want to seem rude.
The dish she prepared for me was luo si fen (螺蛳粉), which translates to river snail noodles. When she offered me the bowl I didn't know what it was, but it looked delicious, so I ate. Admittedly, it was a bit stinky, but she was eating it with such gusto that I thought it must be good. I didn't have the nerve to ask why it smelled the way it did.
After my first couple of bites, I thought yes, it's stinky, but it's delicious. When we finished, she asked if I liked it, and I said yes. Then she revealed that the noodles contained river snails, and that's what accounted for its distinctive aroma.
I was so shocked! Good thing I didn't show any negative reactions; otherwise I would have embarrassed myself.
Later, I searched online to learn more about this dish. It comes from a province in China called Guangxi, where river snail noodles is a part of their authentic homemade cuisine.
The luo si fen that my friend made for me was not quite the authentic homemade version from Guangxi; she used an instant package of noodles as a base and added a few extra ingredients to make it her own. She said it's her comfort food.
- 1 package instant river snail noodles (we used Hao Huan Luo brand, but any brand is fine)
- Spring onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- 1 small package sotanghon or vermicelli, soaked in water then boiled separately
- 2 pieces luffa, thinly chopped
- 125 grams pork belly, thinly sliced
- ¼ package tofu skins, soaked in water
- 2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 package crab sticks (we used Tokai brand, but any brand is fine)
- Handful of river spinach, boiled, for garnish
- 1 Korean tofu or soft tofu (any brand), sliced
- 2-3 dried chillis (optional)
- Pour 400ml water into a pan. Add the soup base and other components from the instant noodle package.
- Add the luffa gourd. Let it cook until it's a bit soft.
- Add the pork belly and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Then add the crab sticks, tofu skins, and tofu. Let it cook for 3 minutes (or more). Make sure everything in the pan is cooked to your preferred level of doneness.
- To each serving bowl, add cooked vermicelli. On top of the noodles, add soup from the pan. Garnish with spring onions and boiled water spinach.
I Hope You Try It!
This dish was really delicious. Though it's a bit stinky, it's definitely worth a try. My bet is that once you've tried it, you'll find yourself craving it. This preparation isn't as authentic as the one you would find in Guangxi, but it's something foreigners can try at in their own kitchen without having to travel to China.
Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible.
— Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, "The Chinese Kitchen"
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