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Caracois: snails in Lisbon, Portugal

Caracóis: Eating Snails in Lisbon

I am not proud to say that sometimes I freak out when it comes to trying new foods. Don’t get me wrong: I have come a long way and traveling around the wold has trained my mind and palate to be way more open to new experiences than before. Still, sometimes, the looks of some creatures don’t do it for me.

This doesn’t necessarily happen in exotic far away countries: in my own homeland, Portugal, I have recently put slimy prejudice aside to try one of Lisbon’s most beloved summer delicacies: SNAILS!

My friends were telling Ashray that he should definitely try snails as it’s such an iconic thing in Lisbon during the warm season… and then were shocked when they found out that I, having lived in Lisbon for so many years, had never had them before either!

 

We put an end to all of this non-sense on a Lisbon summer night, and tried snails for the first time:

 

So, what do snails taste like?

Actually, they taste mostly like the ingredients they are cooked with. They taste like fried onions, garlic, tomato and oregano. With a slightly textured tiny piece of meat involved, that is, the actual snail.

The typical serving of Portuguese snails involves smaller creatures than the famous “escargot” in France. If you’re into chunkier bites like those, you’d have to order “caracoletas” in Portugal. We’ll leave those for next time.

 

Where can I eat Caracóis in Lisbon?

Snails are readily available in many restaurants across Lisbon and Southern Portugal, but they are a seasonal treat. During summer, you’ll see small restaurants (locally known as “tascas”) advertising them. It’s also likely that you’ll simply notice locals having them as appetizer or afternoon snack in tascas and cafes, along with local beer or wine.

A serving of caracóis is fairly affordable. If you’re not sure if you’re going to like them, ask for a pires (plate) instead of travessa (serving plate). The serving on the photo above is a pires and it cost less than 5 Euros.

 

I can’t say I’m eagerly waiting for next summer to indulge in caracóis in Lisbon. But the truth is that they were not half bad either. Taste buds and mind can be trained and educated. Just three years ago, for example, I didn’t like curry – and I appreciate it and even crave it often now. Maybe in a while I’ll be ready for the big caracoletas… who knows!

 

Have you tried snails before?


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14 Comments

  • We were in Lisbon in October, but I wasn’t aware of caracois and certainly would have tried them. We’ve had snails on a river boat in China and in the U.S. and I enjoyed them. I did fall in love with ginginha in Portugal and can’t find it here in the states.

    • Zara Says

      I’m happy to read that you are fond of Portuguese products, Scott! :)
      Not sure if you’ll ever find Ginginha in the USA… maybe in some Portuguese groceries. I did come across a Portuguese grocery store in the countryside of California earlier this year but I don’t recall if they were selling Ginginha or if this kind of store is even that common everywhere else in the country..

  • “Zara, I am recording..” Hahaha.. your face. :D
    I am also bad on trying a new food especially the weird/extreme one.

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  • Good article! It reminded me of being in Portugal. I have had Caracóis a few times in Lisbon. It tastes better with a glass of wine, then again what doesn’t?
    As for the Ginginha, you can purchase it in a few Canadian and US Portuguese grocery stores, but without the cherries. Ginginha is so delicious and addictive.

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  • Margaret Ferreira Morgan Says

    I was in Portugal last June 2014 but I didn’t try snails. I love garlic! The more garlic the better! I’ll have to think about having snails when I go again.

  • Norman Says

    Hm…I know french snails basically taste like all the garlic, herbs and butter that go with them (quite tasty in fact) – but these looks rather bland – did I miss it or is there no sauce?

    heh! love the way you have to suck them out tho!

    • Zara Says

      There is a sauce, but they are not “swimming” in a lot of sauce. They are cooked with butter, garlic and herbs, so they do taste like that flavorful mix. We also have “chunkier” snails in Portugal. Instead of caracois, they are called caracoletas – these are more similar to the French escargot!

      Thanks for reading us Norman! :)

  • Paulo Coelho Says

    The “caracoletas” have two ways to be served. Boiled similar to Caracois, and Grilled. The differences are, the boiled ones could have some ‘ranho’ (if thew were not completely an absolutely cleaned before – like all the food) than the grilled ones (Zara will understand what means ‘ranho’).

    My father in law also does “Caracoletas à Braz”, wich is the “same thing às bacalhau à braz, but with caracoletas instead of bacalhau. But you will not find these on anywhere else.

    And, as Zara said, caracois have no taste. The flavour is given by the ingredients they are cooked with.

    And the price for a ‘pires de caracois’ is (outside center Lisbon), around 2euro and not 5euro

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