Slaughter on Slaughter Beach

So it was on this July 4th weekend my partner, Warren, and I along with some of our neighbors went to the beach. Our wonderful friend Chick invited all of us to spend the weekend with him and his family at their beach house, which is in a small coastal hamlet of Slaughter Beach at the mouth of the Delaware River. Kim, the Yummy Mummy, and her family were part of the group. If you’ve been following her blog you’d know about the “horrors” that happened during the weekend. But don’t believe all of them!

OK, we did find whelks. Although we called them conch all weekend long. A mistake. I made conch… oops! whelk fritters. We did find a sand shark. I did make grilled shark steaks. But what’s so unusual about that? They were delicious.

Warren was raised on the ocean near Cape Cod and as a child he used to gather up the ocean’s bounty and have his mother cook whatever he managed to find. He still scavenges whenever we are at the beach, but now I get to cook them. It was with high expectations that I hope Warren would find something interesting from the ocean.

I was not disappointed. After only a few minutes wading around in the shallows at low tide he came back with a few whelks. According to Wikipedia they are sometimes called “sea snails” or “scungilli” in Italian-American cooking term.

It may come as a shock to you that I do in fact make Western dishes. But I do. There was a package of Bisquick pancake mix in the kitchen but no flour. So I improvised and used it to make the whelk fritters. I used about 1 1/2 cups of the pancake mix, and added two eggs, 1/3 cup of lager beer, 1/4 cup minced onion, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus the chopped meat from three whelks (about 1/2 cups). I mixed the combined ingredients well and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. I then fried heaping tablespoonfuls of the batter in a frying pan on medium heat with about 1/2 inch deep of olive oil augmented by a few tablespoons of butter. I cooked it until golden brown and drained the grease on paper towels. I served them with chopped tomatoes that were mixed with lemon juice and pinch of salt, and garnished the dish with chopped parsley. It was a hit!

Since Red Cook really is about Chinese cooking, I will include a Chinese whelk recipe. This recipe is a stir-fried whelk with Chinese wine lees. Wine lees is the solid residue from wine making. It is a very popular flavoring ingredient in Southern China, especially in the Chaozhou and Fujian regions. So here is how to make it.

  • Stir-Fried Whelk with Chinese Wine Lees (淡糟香螺片)

    • Preparation time: 20 minutes
    • Rapid cooking time: 15 minutes
    • 1 cup whelks blanched and thinly sliced
    • 1 cup bamboo shoots thinly sliced
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
    • 2 tablespoons Chinese wine lees (紅糟)
    • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • thinly sliced scallion for garnish
    • You can buy whelk in the shell or already taken out. To get the live mollusk out of the shell you can break it, or put the shell in boiling water for about three minutes, then pull the meat out. Only use the firm white meat.
    • Heat vegetable oil in the wok at high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the whelk and bamboo shoot slices. Stir-fry for about three minutes, then remove from the wok and set aside. Add the garlic and ginger into the oil that remains in the wok and stir-fry for about two minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the sliced scallions, and put the whelks and bamboo shoots back into the wok. Continue to stir-fry for another three minutes or until all the liquid is evaporated. Plate and garnish with sliced scallions.
    • It is common to line the serving dish with a layer of steamed green vegetable. You can use baby bok choy or sliced green luffa.
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9 Comments

  1. Posted July 9, 2008 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve never had whelk, I don’t think, Western or Eastern style. I do see conch on sale at the local supermarket, so I might give it a try. What does whelk taste like?

  2. Posted July 9, 2008 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    js, Both whelk and conch taste very similar. They taste like clam but a little bit more chewy. They can get very rubbery if overcooked. They are often cut into slices or small dice so can be cooked very quickly. You can often find them on pasta in Italian restaurants as scungilli sauce.

    You can substitute conch for whelk in both the recipes in this post.

  3. Posted July 9, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Do you know that I’ve never had conch or whelk? For shame.

    Quick question, should I happen to find one or the other, for your fritters, do you precook the conch and how? Quick dip in some boiling water? Saute?

    Thanks!

  4. Posted July 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    christine, OK, here is what you do to get the mollusk out of its shell. You can either crack the shell, or par-boil the entire shell in boiling water for about three minutes. It is almost impossible to pull the mollusk out when it is still alive. You will end up breaking the flesh.

    In any event it is important to have the meat slightly cooked even before cleaning and slicing. If you crack the shell you’ll want to par-boil the meat as well. When cleaning do cut off the darker parts and the antenna like parts of the mollusk. Also slice off the darker skin on the white meat section. You will only use the white part of the meat.

    Pancake mix is not essential. You can use 1 1/2 cups of flour mixed with 2 teaspoon of baking powder instead in the above recipe.

  5. Posted July 12, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never had conch or whelk either. Is it ever eaten raw, in a shasami style or otherwise? Great recipes, thanks.

  6. Posted July 14, 2008 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I do believe the Japanese eat whelk sashimi. I’ve not had them raw however. I’d be interested in trying some.

  7. Posted July 15, 2008 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Kian, looks like you had a wonderful week-end complete with a big bowl of fresh marine air. Man, i’m jealous! Look at these beauties! Wow. I didn’t know they were called whelks either. You taught me something once again. And your recipe looks very interesting. I’m gonna have to start experimenting with Chinese food more!

    Oh and I finally posted about the award! (i know i’m late hehe) Thanks again! :-)

  8. Maxx Tam
    Posted July 20, 2008 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kian,

    It was so great to visit you in NYC earlier this month. I’ve never been to Harlem…of course this was my first time to NYC. Anyway, I really enjoyed your cooking there…what little Kevinn gave me. And it looks like you had quite a weekend in Delaware. After NYC, Jim and Kevinn & I went to Montauk; I think we ate seafood for every dinner. I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but I didn’t like the lobster. Our host Paul steamed 3 lobsters, each over 2 lbs! I swear, they were as long as I am! Love, Maxx

  9. Heather
    Posted December 4, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    hello neighbor-

    I grew up at Slaughter Beach and have eaten the conch many times. What else were you catching in the bay? My cousin Wendy and I meet at SB every 4th of July with our kids. We must have just missed you.

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