I just love going to the Sydney Fish Markets – in fact going to any fresh produce market makes me happy (or just a market in general really). I love the buzz on a busy good weather trading day of the cray people stressing about because they’re running late to get back home to set up the BBQ before their friends arrive or something, or the people chit chatting away or munching on goodies, or cuddling up to lovers, or determinedly requesting orders with the fishmongers as they keenly select the finest/choice produce at the counter.
What I love the most about the Sydney Fish Markets is witnessing/seeing the amazing spectrum of fresh seafood produce – the vibrancy of colours, shapes, designs and smells; the array of god’s creatures that lay freshly displayed on ice or still swimming/breathing in water tanks, or already sliced up and prepared, ready for immediate consumption.
Besides the stresses of traffic jams and finding a carpark on high temp days, I always look forward to our visits to the fish markets. Expectedly, on our recent long weekend trip, when we drove there to pick up fresh fish to make a new jar of padaek with – we experienced the usual/typical Sydney Fish Market mayhem/madness.
Miraculously though (with time restraint [had other errands to run], a precise shopping list, and an oddly enough innate compass for locating exactly what I wanted) – I managed to (after finding a ridiculous “this should not be a parking spot” parking spot for the car) find and buy what I needed in record time. I even managed to squeeze in a quick order of T/A lunch and take a few snaps of aliens as well. I know, I surprise myself sometimes!
Ironically – when I returned to the car after all this fuss, we decided to stay a little longer and munch our lunch in the car as we watched people pass us by and politely non verbally inquire about our parking space.
During my foxtrot/ninja weaving skills through the crowd (you should have seen me) – I noticed some sea snails (better known as periwinkles) that looked rather fascinating and delicious. They reminded me of a quick and simple Lao shell/mollusc dish that I used to enjoy – where the lightly cooked/boiled molluscs/cockles are served with a mouthwatering sweet-spicy-sour-salty-savoury dipping sauce, and accompanied with salad greens/herbs, etc. Yumm!
Periwinkles are in fact an underrated and versatile creature/seafood. Apart from the partial issue of prizing them out of their shells (with fork, toothpick, patience, finesse and slurp) and their rather alien/grotesque appearance – periwinkles are very delicious to eat! They have a rather firm meaty, clean/pure and nutty flavour, and can be enjoyed/prepared in several different ways. These include stir fry, treating them as escargot (after they’ve been removed from their shells), and the recipe of this post, of course!((1))
Periwinkles, like other molluscs/shellfish can be simply cooked/boiled in lightly salted water (I used ½ tsp of sea salt and 1 L of water for 1 KG of periwinkles). However, after discovering Luke Nguyen’s recipe for Ninh Binh snails cooked in lemongrass and chilli (oc luoc xa), where he cooked the snails in a “herbal” broth – I knew that I had to adapt this great idea/method. Thus, I added some of my fav herbs and ingredients into the broth for my periwinkles also – including Shaoxing wine (which is one of my current favourite ingredients). Although, other light/white wines will work quite well too, I think.((2))
To be honest – I found some of cooked periwinkles to be a little difficult/fiddly to remove from the shells and eat because of their operculum (inedible hard/tough protective flap covering the opening). I ended up ruining/bending the tines of a fork trying to retrieve them, so be warned!((3))
Nonetheless, periwinkles are delicious and fun to eat. They make a great novelty snack/appetiser/meal to share and have with an icy cold beer! Give them a go when you find them next time at the fish markets. They’re surprisingly firm/meaty and tasty, and pure/clean (provided they’ve been rinsed/soaked/degorged properly prior to cooking/boiling). Bivalves make a tasty and easier alternative to periwinkles and can be also enjoyed similarly.
Note: The dish below was cooked/prepared at night, so please pardon the photos that are slightly dark/not well lit/not sharp. Also, because it had been a long day, I did not bother to serve the periwinkles with salad greens/herbs, cooked vermicelli or sticky rice. Nevertheless, they were enjoyed as is – simply, and with the delicious/amazing dipping sauce. Sern saab!
- 1 KG of live Periwinkles
- 1 lemongrass
- 1 spring onion
- 3 cm piece of ginger
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 L of water
- ½ tsp of sea salt
- 3 TBSP of Shaoxing wine
- Dipping sauce:
- 2 chilies
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 cm piece of ginger
- 2 cm piece of lemongrass head (part of 1 lemongrass used to cook periwinkle in)
- 1 lemon
- 1 coriander
- 3 TBSP of fish sauce
- 2 TBSP of brown sugar
- First, prepare the periwinkles. Wash, scrub and rinse the periwinkles to remove any dirt or debris. Soak/submerge them in fresh cold water for 1 hour and then drain. Discard ones that float if any. Repeat this process 3 times. When ready, drain and put aside.
- Wash and cut a 2 cm piece off the head of the lemongrass and reserve for the dipping sauce. With the remaining lemongrass, bruise it with a pestle or side of a cleaver, and then thinly slice. Wash and thinly slice the spring onion and ginger. Wash the kaffir lime leaves. Put these ingredients aside.
- Wash and remove stem from chilies. Peel garlic cloves. Wash and cut the ginger into small pieces. Thinly slice the 2 cm piece of lemongrass. Quarter the lemon. Wash and thinly slice the coriander. Put these ingredients aside.
- Make the dipping sauce. Place the chilies, garlic cloves, ginger, lemongrass and sliced coriander root (reserve the sliced leaves for garnish) and brown sugar into a mortar. Pound to a medium fine consistency. Add the fish sauce and mix well together by stirring with the end of the pestle. Squeeze in the lemon juice and mix well. Adjust the flavour to suit your palate. What you're aiming for a delicious blend of sweet, spicy, salty, savoury and sour! When ready, cover and put aside.
- Cook the periwinkles. In a saucepan, add the water, sea salt, sliced lemongrass, spring onion, ginger and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to the boil. Add the periwinkles and stir through. Add the Shaoxing wine and stir everything together. Cover and gently boil for about 10 mins.
- When the periwinkles are cooked, transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately with the dipping sauce. Optional accompaniments include fresh salad vegetables (lettuce, herbs, etc.), cooked rice vermicelli and sticky rice. Sern saab!smile
[]For more ways to eat periwinkles, go to: http://www.weekendnotes.com/best-ways-to-eat-periwinkles/.[]
[]For more mouthwatering recipes by Luke Nguyen, go to: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/person/luke-nguyen-5.[]
[]Operculum are unusual things! They look like a hardened shells/fish scales/finger nails and remind me of tiny/cute fossilised human ears. Weird, I know. You can view their extreme peculiarity in photos #18 and #19.[]