Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bisukol ed Salumagi

[Kuhol sa Sampalok/Snails in Tamarind Broth with Kangkong]

Snails cooked in broth soured with raw tamarind fruit is a rainy day dish in Pangasinan. The rainy season, from July to September, floods the ricefields and inundates the waterways, prompting the snails to emerge from the ground and congregate by the numbers.

Snails are one of the few food resources which thrive uncultured. They have survived, so far, the poisons that we feed our environment, because of their prolific nature. During the rainy season, cylinders of gray eggs can be found attached to the insides of palay leaves and other plants growing along streams and creeks. This is different from the pink cylinders, which look like flowers, attached to plants growing in the canals. These are the eggs of the big, "golden kuhol" variety, not endemic to the country, which laboriously crawl on the pavements and up walls, leaving long wet trails.

Before cooking, the snails should be left first in a pan full of water for a few days so they could spit out whatever they had previously eaten. I always forget to leave the pan covered, so after a few hours the snails are all over the kitchen and I have to scoop them back to the pail.

When they are ready to cook, the snails' bottoms are patted down with a heavy flat sandok (wooden spatula for serving rice) until they break (as a kid I emphatized with them, having received my fair share of slipper sole "pats" on my butt). This so the flesh comes out easily when cooked.

The proper, and fun, way of eating a bisukol is to pick one up with your right hand, the snail's operculum (opening) facing down your plate, then banging your right wrist onto your left wrist until the snail meat comes out and drops on your plate. Then you fork it to your mouth, and take some spoonfuls of the broth. I like the way the snails are chewy with a soft, rubbery consistency, notwithstanding my sore wrists. They taste of the earth from whence they came and which sustains all the life around us.

I have seen some snails served in restaurants, cooked in gata (coconut cream). I've never tried snails cooked this way, because Pangasinan cooking makes use of gata only with sweet dishes, which automatically means desserts, since there is never a Pangasinan fish, meat or vegetable dish that is sweet, only salty or sour or both.

I've been wondering, though, since I've cooked ginataang tulingan (skipjack) and I liked it. Maybe if I found more bisukol.

Related Posts
Bisukol in Cagayan Valley
Wild Dwarf Crabs
Frogs in Soup
Curried Frog Legs


Anonymous said...

Kai, the pink eggs are the golden apple snail's. It was introduced in the Philippines to augment nutrition but turned out to be a pest (natural, invasive species kaya :-P). They're edible but not too agreeable to the Filipino palate. We find them too bland and tough - we still prefer our native species. One of the pest control measures is to process them as chicharon. Hmmm...

On gata: same with us in Pampanga. We only use piga for sweet dishes, usually calamay, suman, jalea. My lola would not touch anything savoury cooked in gata. It was makasuya.

Teka nga, parang gusto kong mag-tag team sa kuhol. I have several pictures languishing in the hard drive for almost a year now, hehehe!

ting-aling said...

I remember this when I was young. This will gross my kids out but "escargots" won't. They don't have a clue that escargots and bisukol are the same. 'will show them when we go home this Christmas.

Kai said...

Ah, so they're edible! But chicharon? Karen! You mean to say I've inadvertently eaten big snails as chicharon? Is that commecially sold? Wonder how that tastes?
And what is a tag team? I've read about that in the LP mail thread about choriburger, too.
Ting, there might not be bisukol when you get here, but if there are, serve them without the shells. Please let me know if you're spending the holidays in Manaoag, I hope I could meet you and the family. Even in Baguio, though, I'd like to come up for the scented air. Will bring you Calasiao puto. ;-)

Anonymous said...

No, I think the snail chicharon are identified as such. I haven't seen any though.

Tag team means to do it together, like a duet, hehehe! I'd have posted two snail recipes if I had time. I'll try after LP2.

Anonymous said...

kalad, kuhol is my witch of a sister's ultimate favorite. whenever she goes home -- which is very rare, my mother commissions some poor farmer to gather at least half a sack of kuhol in the fields where the source is known para malinis. our version is stewed in coconut milk and laced with pako fronds, that is fern to the uninitiated. we eat it by literally slurping the gata inside the shell, sip sip, and coaxing the flesh to come out with the barbeque stick.