Recipe: Mysterysnail Fettuccine

We’re finally coming out of our shell here at invasivore.org with our first recipe, Mysterysnail Fettuccine.  Read on for all the info you need to collect and cook these tasty aquatic pests!

Snail collection

Chinese mysterysnails (Cipangopaludina chinensis) are prosobranch snails, meaning they have an operculum or “trap door” on their shell that seals up when threatened.  The adult mysterysnails that you will want to collect for eating will be approximately the size of a golf ball, and they tend to be dark brown in color but can also appear olive green.  The key distinguishing feature of Chinese mysterysnails that you may be able to distinguish in the field is the presence of three parallel rows of fine hairs that run along the center of the shell whorl, although these hairs seem to weather off over time so they can be easy to miss.

In this photo of an adult Chinese mysterysnail, the three rows of tiny hairs (indicated by arrows) are visible on the front of the shell, but have worn away around the top of the shell. Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.

In invaded lakes, large adult mysterysnails can often be most easily collected on large rocks in the near-shore zone of the lake.  Essentially, this means you should be able to wade into knee-deep water with a bucket and pluck a bounty of snails off the rocks.

Preparing Snails for Cooking

When you have returned to the kitchen with your snails (still alive), rinse any debris off their shells with cool running water.   Typically, when preparing other more traditional land snails such as Helix species, snails need rearing for 1-2 weeks on a diet of greens and corn meal to clear grit out of the gut and fatten them up.  In our experience, we have found that more impatient invasivores can keep collected snails in a bucket of clean water for 24-48 hours without food to effectively purge their tiny guts.  Chinese mysterysnails are incredibly hearty and should be easy to keep alive in a bucket for a few days.  Keep in mind, though, that snails are heavily regulated by the USDA, so be responsible with your catch- don’t let them escape or intentionally release them.

In their native range, Chinese mysterysnails have been implicated as vectors for human intestinal flukes.  However, to our knowledge, this has not been observed in North America.  Nevertheless, it is essential that the next step is followed completely, and that snails are cooked thoroughly before consumption! Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add snails, and continue to boil for 15 minutes.  Next, drain the snails and allow them to cool so that you can handle them.  Use a knife to pry the trap door of the shell open and, with a tight grasp on the trap door, pull the snail out of its shell.  Separate the foot of the snail (the dark meaty part that sticks out of the shell when the snail is crawling around- what you can see in the myserysnail picture above) from the trap door and the rest of the snail guts.  The foot is edible; dispose of the rest of the snail.

Recipe: Mysterysnail Fettuccine

Ingredients:

  • 50 snails, prepared as previously described
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package (10 oz) fettuccine noodles

Directions:

  1. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions
  2. While pasta boils, melt butter in a pan over medium heat then add snails and minced garlic.  Stir often for 15 minutes (Remember: snails MUST be cooked thoroughly before human consumption!)
  3. Drain pasta and toss with snail-butter-garlic sauce
Snail fettuccine served with fruit, corn on the cob, garlic bread, slaw, and another invasive recipe you will soon see on invasivore.org, boiled rusty crayfish. Photo credit: Ashley Baldridge

8 thoughts on “Recipe: Mysterysnail Fettuccine

  • February 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm
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    I’ve had this dish many times…..very delicious!

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  • February 2, 2011 at 8:13 pm
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    This is such a great meal! Just make sure to let the snails sit long enough to void their guts 🙂 Great photo!

    Reply
  • February 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm
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    General question about these snails (and perhaps other species to follow in the recipe book): Do these species coexist with any other organisms that will look similar? For the untrained eye (i.e., mine), could it be difficult to tell the difference between a CMS and another, native snail? I definitely like that you included some distinguishing features in the collection section. Certainly keep that up. I just wanted to make sure that the descriptions provided will be enough for everybody to make field identifications. Keep up the good cookin’!

    Reply
  • February 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm
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    Excellent point, Konrad. At invasivore.org, we encourage responsible invasivory. We will always do our best to provide information on how to properly identify our featured species, but under no circumstances should you ever eat something that you cannot positively identify.

    As for mysterysnails, we believe the best trait to use to identify them in the field is the presence of the three rows of fine hairs we described in the post. It is unfortunate that the hairs can be lost to abrasion over the snail’s lifetime, but to be safe, invasivores should always be sure their mysterysnails have them.

    Reply
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  • November 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm
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    What counties in Virginia can these mystery snails be found? Does anyone know any areas in florida where they can be found also?

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  • June 29, 2017 at 1:56 pm
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    The cooking directions state that once you do the boiling you remove the snails from the shells and cut the foot off (the edible part) and throw the innards away. If we are not eating the innards why are we worried about letting them sit to purge their intestines? We are not eating the guts so who cares?

    Reply

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