France is the worldwide number one consumer of snails – otherwise called escargot – making it the best place to try this unique delicacy. If you can get over your initial nerves, you’ll see why this high-protein, low-fat and vitamin-rich meal is just as loved by the French as camembert and baguettes. Check out our guide to enjoying this timeless dish and learn just how to eat escargot like the locals do.
A Traditional Meal
Today France consumes around 40-60 thousand tons of escargots per year, with hundreds of specialist farms across the country producing high-quality edible snails. Long seen as a fashionable dish, chilled escargot is often the first dish to be served during national festivals. Archaeological evidence tells us that Europeans have been enjoying snails since the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, but it is in France – and Burgundy in particular – that the meal is most commonly associated.
What to Order
There are plenty of different varieties of snail dish on offer across France, but the most common and best known is Escargots à la Bourguignonne. This classic meal simply involves oven-roasting snails, and served with a creamy garlic butter. A popular alternative is Escargots à la Bordelaise, which sees the snails cooked in a rich meat and white wine broth, which is sometimes used as a filling for a light puff pastry.
How to Eat Escargot
Once you’ve plucked up the courage to order, you’ll be delivered a tray full of snails, a pair of tongs that look like eyelash curlers and a snail fork. To eat, you simply need to hold the shells with the tongs, and twist the fork to separate the meat from the shell. Take your time; escargot are meant to be enjoyed slowly.
Where to Eat Snails in France
As the country’s capital, Paris is unsurprisingly a fantastic place to taste this unique delicacy. There are a number of traditional eateries that keep the centuries-old recipes alive, such as L’Escargot Montorgueil, a true institution of the city. Elsewhere in France, the gastronomic heartland of Burgundy is most famous for its Helix Pomatia snails – better known as Roman snails in the UK. You won’t have far to go either, with almost all restaurants in the region offering a variation of the dish. Visit the capital of the region, Dijon, to sample some of the finest chardonnay, coq au vin, beef bourguignon and of course, escargot, in the country. Here, the local style is to stew the snails for several hours in wine, shallots, carrots and onions, stuffing them with garlic and parsley and roasting them in the oven.
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