Sop Tutut, Indonesian Fresh Water Snail Soup
Cooked with serai (lemongrass), lengkuas (galangal), kunyit (turmeric), daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves - thanks Pepy), cabai (chillies) and other spices, "Sayur Tutut" or Fresh Sea Water Snail Soup, is a favorite delicacies. Eating them though; could pose a bit of challenge. While with the escargot usually you could finish them using a small fork, but since tutut are considerably smaller in size, then you would need a tooth pick, or do like we do it here: by flash sucking them, or as the Sundanese calls it; "kecrok". Kecrok involves a sudden sucking/flash sucking action, powerful enough to draw the snail out of its shell. But even with veteran "kecrokers", sometimes there are snails too tough to pull out, tough creatures!
Upon cooked, just like any other snails, tutut tend to get rubbery. They also have this strong "swampy" aroma which could hardly be covered with the seasoning; it just stands out, so it's a bit hard to misidentify this snail meat. While the French are covering their escargot with butter and garlic, in Indonesia we relies on our spices.
If on the western Java (Sundanese region) tutut is usually cooked in shallow soup; going a bit east, there are other ways of cooking them, including stir fries or turning them into the snail crackers. Going further east, in Bali these are known as "kakul", and there's even more variety of cooking these snails, i.e.: sate kakul (snail satay), tum kakul (steam cooked snail with herbs and spices), and ares kakul (kakul with young banana stem).
Nutrition speaking, snails are cheap source of protein, much cheaper than our regular meats. Catching them is also quite easy, since these creatures has been known as man kind's standard of slowness;and even though they're mostly hiding by the day, they are active at night and remains easy to catch early in the morning. A trick I read from Jay's blog is to utilize papaya leaves as a bait.
Up to this point, in Indonesia there's no known commercial cultivation of fresh water snails. Most of the snail cookings are either home-cooked or home industry products; except in Bali where there are several businesses relies solely on the popularity of this delicacies.
A small fact about this creature:
Some species of these fresh water snails were also considered as pet for their cute golden polished shell; but this doesn't erase the fact that they could cause serious ecological damage when introduced to its non-native environment, especially due to the lack of their natural predator and their highly adaptive nature. In the rice fields, these snails can close their lid tight, and survive the dry seasons. During those dry times, they can be found hiding down to 6 meters deep in the ground. They are also known to have respiratory organs resembling both lungs ang gills! This unique feature, combined with their hermaphrodite breeding, could change their status from cute pet into serious plague in a very short time. (bay)
About author: Bayu Amus
Bayu Amus is a gastronomic storyteller and Food Experience designer. He pens food articles for travel magazines, speaks on food events, and was part of the team who compiled Makansutra Indonesia 2013, the pocket book which showcases Bali’s best street food. Contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org