Cantonese-Style Periwinkle Snails In Black Bean Sauce

June 7, 2022


I’ve known periwinkle snails for a long time. During my childhood in upstate New York, I had my first taste of Cantonese-style periwinkle snails in black bean sauce. In fact, I had no idea what they were called in the English language until much later. In Cantonese, they are referred to as “sac luo,” which means “rock snail.”

Whether we’re gathering wild watercress in upstate New York or selecting wild blueberries in Alaska, our family is adept at foraging. That we gathered over a pound of periwinkles should come as no surprise.

Snails in live tanks are simpler to come by, so head to your nearest Chinese market to see if you can get your hands on some—if you’re lucky enough to live near one, that is.

This iconic Cantonese dish may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you dare, give it a shot!


  • 4 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
  • 3 cloves of chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ pounds of periwinkle snails
  • 1½ tablespoons of garlic sauce & ground black bean
  • 1½ teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
  • 1 chopped scallion
  • ¼ cup of chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper


  1. It’s not necessary to do much more than give your periwinkles a quick rinse after purchasing them from a live tank at your local Chinese fish market.
  2. After collecting our periwinkles, we rinsed them thoroughly and put them in a basin without any water to keep them fresh overnight in the fridge. We rewashed them the following day after soaking them in cold water for ten minutes. To drain, place the periwinkles in a strainer.
  3. Over medium-low heat, heat your carbon steel wok or metal pot. Nonstick pots can damage the nonstick coating, so be careful not to use one when cooking with them. Periwinkle snails have thick, robust shells.
  4. Mix in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons of minced, fresh ginger.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1/4 cup chopped onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black bean and garlic sauce to the oil and stir for 10 seconds.
  6. Add the periwinkle snails and stir until well blended.
  7. Stir the snails into the sauce for a full 10 seconds on high heat, then remove from the pan. Add 4 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine to the mix. Add sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, and black soy sauce and continue stirring for another 15 seconds at high heat. Cover the saucepan or wok and continue to stir.
  8. Add another 4 to 5 minutes, depending on how hot your stove is. When you remove the cover, the periwinkle snails and sauce combination should be steaming. Then add white pepper.
  9. After that, thoroughly blend your cornstarch slurry (Remember that cornstarch separates from the water after sitting for more than a minute.)
  10. When you’ve added the cornstarch slurry to the sauce, use your spatula to swiftly mix it in with the periwinkle snails.
  11. Stir in the scallions and cook for a further 30 seconds. Serve in a serving bowl.
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