Cantonese Periwinkle Snails with Rich Black Bean Magic

August 2, 2023

A Journey Through Time With Periwinkle Snails

The delightful taste of Cantonese periwinkle snails with black bean sauce, known in Cantonese as “sac luo” or “rock snail”, began coloring my culinary memories from the pristine landscapes of the Catskills in New York. I vividly recall wooden baskets in Chinatown fish markets, brimming with these special snails. Often savored in eateries where their shells were deftly snipped for effortless enjoyment, these marine delicacies always held an air of rarity and distinction.

The Story Behind Every Bite

It was a nostalgic revelation when I discovered the English name for our beloved “sac luo” – periwinkles. A dinner with a high school friend turned into an exploration of this delectable seafood, paired with the tang of fermented black bean sauce. Years later, while in Connecticut, witnessing these same snails clinging to lobster traps brought back waves of childhood memories. Discovering the abundance of these snails in Newfoundland, Canada, reinforced my family’s knack for foraging – from plucking wild watercress in New York to harvesting blueberries in Alaska.

Embrace Culinary Adventures

While hunting for these snails might be an adventure, you might also spot them in your nearest Chinese market’s live tank. Unconventional to some, this recipe captures the essence of Cantonese flavors, promising a gastronomic journey for those willing to venture.


  • 1½ pounds periwinkle snails
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup onions, finely diced
  • 1½ tablespoons ground black bean & garlic paste
  • 4 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch (mix with 3 tablespoons water for a slurry)
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced

Steps to Deliciousness:

  1. Rinse purchased periwinkles, especially if sourced from a live tank.
  2. For freshly gathered snails, rinse, refrigerate overnight without water, soak in cold water the next day for 10 minutes, and drain.
  3. Use a carbon steel wok or metal pot on medium heat, avoiding non-stick pots due to snail shell hardness.
  4. Saute fresh ginger in vegetable oil.
  5. Introduce garlic, onions, and black bean-garlic paste, stirring until aromatic.
  6. Incorporate the periwinkle snails.
  7. Elevate heat, and after a brief stir, pour in Shaoxing wine. Add sesame oil, sugar, and both soy sauces, then cover.
  8. Cook for 4-5 minutes, ensuring a steaming mix once uncovered. Season with white pepper.
  9. Mix the cornstarch slurry and combine with the snail preparation.
  10. Garnish with scallions, stirring for 30 seconds, and then serve in a hearty bowl.

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