How to Cook Chiang Mai Snail Curry

I was keen to draw a distinction between the cuisine of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, and what we here in the West know as Thai food i.e. Pad Thai, red/green/yellow curry and the like. Because Chiang Mai is landlocked, seafood does not feature that prominently in its recipes; I was told pork is very popular, which I have to admit gave me pause since I don’t eat pork.

Early morning shopping at Chiang Mai wet market; you can just make out baby Noah’s pram on the left, being pushed by Executive Chef Georg of Shangri-La Chiang Mai.

Early morning shopping at Chiang Mai wet market; you can just make out baby Noah’s pram on the left, being pushed by Executive Chef Georg of Shangri-La Chiang Mai.

We spent the morning following my arrival visiting a local wet market to look for ingredients we could use in our cooking segments. I wanted to film at least 3 cooking videos (we ended up doing 6) and they had to be both pork-free AND unique to Chiang Mai.

It seemed like a tall order but Chef Kamsin saved the day when we came across some snail meat at the market. Snail is common in northern Thai cooking but not so in other parts of Thailand; in this recipe, we used pre-poached and de-shelled snail meat, though traditionally they are cooked in the shell.

INGREDIENTS:

500 g Snail meat
1 L Coconut milk
100 g Red curry paste
20 g Kaffir lime leaves
20 g Betel leaves
10 g Turmeric powder
60 g Palm sugar
40 ml Soy sauce
20 ml Fish sauce

METHOD:

1. Blanch snail meat in 1 cup of boiling water. Bring to a boil until snail meat is almost cooked through, then transfer into a bowl of cold water. Strain and set aside.

2. Heat a pot over medium heat, add the red curry paste with a small amount of coconut milk and fry gently.

3. Add the kaffir lime leaves, betel leaves, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Add more coconut milk gradually and continue stirring.

4. Throw in the snail meat and bring to a boil. Simmer until snail meat is cooked.

5. Remove from heat and serve.

From what I’ve observed, the cooking style in Chiang Mai involves the kind of patient, subtle effort that is often lacking in my own kitchen (if you’ve seen me at the wok you’ll know what I mean) – the gentle stirring and simmering, the finely shredding of herbs and other ingredients etc. – it is quite compelling to watch and I learned an enormous amount just in my few days there.

Chiang Mai Snail Curry a.k.a. Gang Kua Hoi Kom Bai Cha-Plu

Chiang Mai Snail Curry a.k.a. Gang Kua Hoi Kom Bai Cha-Plu

(Rooted in Nature is a campaign recently launched across the kitchens of the Shangri-La Hotel Group where the menus are based around locally-sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients.)

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