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Adventurous Eating – Giant Ivorian Snails

Cote dIvoire Snails - Wide

While researching Ivorian cuisine before traveling to West Africa earlier this year, I was excited and slightly intimidated by one of Cote d’Ivoire’s most popular dishes: giant land snails. Some Google image searches revealed shells as large as a human hand with what appeared to be a fat eel sticking out. I have enjoyed plenty of escargots in France and Spain and have lovely memories of warm afternoons filled with long plates of caracois and beer in Portugal. But these snails were a step or two beyond their European relatives.

I chose Espace 331 in Abidjan’s Cocody neighborhood for the lunch and was pretty excited by the time I sat down. Whenever I’m trying something new and thus a little strange for my body, I like to have a beer, as it gives me some strange assurance that the alcohol will temper the effects of any bad meat. For this meal, a big mug of locally brewed Flag beer was the accompaniment.

Cote dIvoire Snails - Frosty Beer

The waiter described two sauces available for the snails. My French was not strong enough to understand one of them, but it came through that the second was tomato-based. I chose the tomato option, as it could be a nice counter to potentially gamey meat. For my side, I ordered attiéké, a cous-cous-ish dish made from grated cassava. After ten minutes, the snails arrived.

Cote dIvoire Snails - Full Plate

Cote dIvoire Snails - Closeup

I initially was taken aback at their size, but still dug in quickly. The snails were slightly rubbery on first bite, but seemed more tender as I made my way through them. The taste? It really wasn’t that distinct and thus dependent on the sauce. The tomato sauced paired perfectly with the snails and really carried the dish. The attiéké was an ideal side, as I was able to sop up a lot of the remaining sauce with several forkfuls. I left a clean plate and then started a lengthy post-meal wander, very full and happy from my first taste of giant snail.

Cote dIvoire Snails - BW

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Jonny Jenkins June 19, 2014, 9:18 am

    Hey Dave,

    Man, this had me from the title… love it when other whities are willing to shed their comforts and get right into the local cuisine and traditions… I can’t really imagine the idea of eating a large land snail, but somehow I’m sure it would end up on my plate if I head down there… Actually, after reading this, it doesn’t seem that bad, kind of like Calamari 😉

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 12:58 pm

      Good point on the calamari, Jonny! I’m sure you’d love it and that you will try it whenever you get to Cote d’Ivoire.

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet June 19, 2014, 10:34 am

    Dave, you are officially my new hero. I love trying weird food whenever I go and giant snails sound like something I would go for, especially after reading this post. I’m sure the mug of beer vastly improved the experience!

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 12:59 pm

      Thanks, Marghe! The beer definitely added to the local experience.

  • Hannah June 19, 2014, 10:49 am

    Oh geez you are brave. I like to try local things but can’t do snails, much less those monsters! So rubbery… Makes me shudder a bit to be honest! The beer looks great though! Haha.

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:02 pm

      It was so humid in Abidjan – the beer was very welcome!

  • Nathan Anderson June 19, 2014, 1:28 pm

    Well done, sir! You say it’s your first taste of giant land snail, does that mean there may be more in the future? Looking forward to getting to that part of the world eventually and trying all the awesome food.

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:08 pm

      I’m up for whatever snail I find on a menu. Can’t imagine there are any bigger than the ones I ate. Can’t wait til you get the chance to experience this!

  • Alli June 19, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Like others, the title really caught my eye for this post! Glad you enjoyed your first taste! These are giant! Good for you for being so open to trying a plethora of different foods from different cultures :)

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:10 pm

      Thanks, Alli! It’s one of the things I enjoy most about travel :)

  • Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy June 19, 2014, 5:08 pm

    Love the adventurous eating posts – these actually don’t look bad at all. I’ll have to check them out when i head that way or anywhere else they show up on the menu!

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:12 pm

      Thanks, Ashley – you’ll have to post on anything adventurous you eat so I can enjoy it vicariously.

  • Angela Travels June 20, 2014, 12:25 am

    I am not a huge adventurous food experimenter. However, I did try escargot in France and hated it. I do want to head back and try some again though since my tastes have expanded.

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:14 pm

      I think that a large part of enjoying a very alien food is the preparation. I don’t know if I would have gone this far if those first snails I ate on my travels had not been cooked in garlic. Hope you can try them again soon!

  • Michael Huxley June 22, 2014, 7:20 am

    Hell yeah I’d give this a shot! I’ve certainly eaten worse! Haha! Good choice on the tomato sauce I think.

    I wonder if there’s any scientific proof about the alchohol and bad meat though, it would certainly explain a lot of those bad kebab shops around nightclubs! ;D

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:17 pm

      Glad to hear it, Michael. I have definitely survived those bad kebab shops. Maybe you and I can collaborate on a scientific study on the subject!

  • frankaboutcroatia June 22, 2014, 3:06 pm

    Dave, I love eating snails, but describing this giant snail with a shells as large as a hand and a fat eel looking meat, didn’t open my appetite. However, the dish looks good on your photo, and I’m crazy about tomato sauce – was it home made?

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:41 pm

      Hi Frank – The tomato sauce was definitely freshly made in the kitchen and would be a great addition to many types of meat, not just snails.

  • patricia June 23, 2014, 7:30 am

    Never. Never. Even if you pay me. The tomato sauce disguised the rubbery slippery non-taste of snail. You are brave in your eating habits. I’m not that brave. Like local cuisine up to a point. I’m brave in other places. Like sailing the worlds oceans.
    Well written. You managed to make it sounds appetizing. My hubby would have loved the beer.
    Visiting from Sunday Traveler.

    • Dave June 23, 2014, 1:58 pm

      The beer and the atmosphere were big pluses. Restaurants like Espace 331 are great places to hang out for a couple of hours with a group.

  • Rachel@safari254 June 23, 2014, 9:39 am

    Good for you, and thankfully you enjoyed it.
    The image I have of snails from when I was little is too disgusting for me to ever contemplate eating them.

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 11:48 am

      Thanks! I don’t blame you – there are still things I shudder at eating.

  • SJ @ Chasing the Donkey June 23, 2014, 1:40 pm

    YUMMMMMMMY! We love eating snails, but I can not say that I have ever eaten ones so huge. Hmmm mmmmm Big thanks for linking up with us to #SundayTraveler

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 11:49 am

      Don’t worry, SJ – there’s always time for a meal of these big guys. They’ll find their way to you.

  • Anna June 23, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Urgh. No, thanks. I tried small snails once, and they tasted like rubber and that was definitely the last time I tried any of their kind…

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 11:51 am

      Tomato-y rubber? It’s much more tasty, I assure you :)

  • antonette - we12travel June 23, 2014, 7:52 pm

    So brave of you to try this. There is a lot that I’ve tried to eat but snails are just one step too far. Maybe also because they scared me as a kid, my sister used to hide them all around the house, which didn’t work ofcourse as they would crawl out of their places…. eeek!

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 11:52 am

      She wouldn’t be able to hide these ones given their size. Thanks for stopping by, Antonette.

  • Corinne June 23, 2014, 11:46 pm

    Dave, I used to have a whole class of African Land Snails for my students to raise and observe as pets (and science). I don’t know if I could eat them, even though I do love a good escargot!

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 11:53 am

      Wow, that is quite the personal connection to these snails! The Ivorian snails are a bit above and beyond the ones I’d had beforehand for sure.

  • Emily June 24, 2014, 2:38 am

    I like to try new foods, but no, just no… I honestly don’t think I could do it! I guess I’m just not that adventurous!!

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 11:54 am

      I’m sure you’ve done some adventurous eating in your South American travels. Would love to hear about those experiences!

  • Raphael Alexander Zoren June 24, 2014, 12:18 pm

    That sounds like a truly awesome experience, Dave!

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 1:59 pm

      Thanks, Raphael – hope you get to try these snails sometime!

  • Brianna June 24, 2014, 1:57 pm

    I too would be slightly apprehensive about eating a giant land snail but it sounds like its not that much different from its diminutive cousins. As long as it’s not overcooked it serves as a good foil for whatever sauce it’s served with.

    • Dave June 24, 2014, 2:03 pm

      I like that attitude, Brianna! I’d happily have them again.

  • Laura June 26, 2014, 9:42 am

    I love snails, but have never eaten giant ones – sounds great!!

    • Dave June 26, 2014, 10:27 am

      They taste pretty similar, just need to make sure they are cooked in a nice sauce, whether it’s tomato or garlic-based.

  • Sabina June 26, 2014, 12:42 pm

    Some people think they’re disgusting, but I LOVE snails – or should I say escargot to make it sound more appetising? 😛 This sounds great to me!

  • Adelina // PackMeTo June 27, 2014, 3:06 am

    Interesting… I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to eat that. I’ve had snails in France before, but these are HUGE! Good for you!

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