Dishing Up Snails Commercial snail farms in Bali Oct 25, 2012 18:37:51 GMT 1
Post by Ismail AbdulAzeez on Oct 25, 2012 18:37:51 GMT 1
Whilst Snail farming as a business in Bali is still in its infancy, now could be the time for Indonesians to seriously consider entering the business of snail farming. With low capital investment, minimal labour and a consistently high yield, snail farming seems a worthwhile venture. Indonesia has a suitable climate and luxuriant vegetation, making snail farming an ideal agro-venture. With an ever-increasing population growth rate and massive deforestation, Indonesian wild snails are depleting at an alarming rate and could benefit from being farmed.
Putu Suastika is beginning to realize that farming snails is a lucrative business for personal consumption and commercial reasons. Two years ago Suastika turned his rice field into a freshwater snail farm to cash in on the growing demand for traditional snail delicacies at his popular food stall in Denpasar. Suastika is an experienced farmer with the necessary knowledge of how to provide nurturing soil requirements, protection against predators, harsh weather and from human interference. Suastika is also an accomplished Balinese traditional food chef. By operating his own snail farm, Suastika made the choice to provide his warung with a steady supply of high-quality freshwater snails.
I caught up with Pak Putu at his food stall called ‘Warung Pan Putu’, which opened several years ago. For just 10,000 rupiah, customers get a portion of hot rice with snail satay, snail tum (steamed minced meat), snail ares (soup with shredded banana trunk) and three different aromatic sambals (spicy sauces).
FRESHWATER SNAIL FARMING
Heliciculture is the process of farming or raising snails specifically for human consumption. Snails are hermaphroditic animals and belong to the species of animals called ‘Mollusca’. They are categorized into three sub species: sea snails, land snails and fresh water snails. A freshwater snail is a gastropod that lives in a watery non-marine (freshwater) habitat. The majority of freshwater gastropods have a shell, with very few exceptions. Some groups of snails that live in freshwater, respire using gills, others need to surface to breathe air. According to present classification efforts, there are about 4,000 species of freshwater gastropods and at least 33–38 independent lineages of gastropods have successfully colonized freshwater environments. They thrive in humid locations such as Bali, and all over Asia, where freshwater snails are just the byproduct of the farmers rice fields. Reproduction takes place during the rainy season as one snail mates with another of the same species, producing hundreds of eggs, which hatch between 10 to 28 days later. The snails mature within five to eight months and have a life cycle of around seven to ten years.
WARUNG PAN PUTU
Warung Pan Putu has been established for six years since October 2006. The local species of snail ‘Tutut or Kakul’ (Viviparidae Bellamyinae) are different from the Apple Snails usually consumed in other Asian countries because they are mainly harvested from rice fields. Water snails possess a strong metallic and earthy taste, very much like escargot, but their texture is unlike the soft escargot; and more like shellfish with a chewy and jerky texture. They lack a strong flavour, requiring substantial seasoning and marinating.
Known locally as Kakul, freshwater snails are a common sight for those people who live in Bali’s remote agricultural villages. Rearing them on a larger scale or for a business motive requires certain resources, including a small piece of land to construct an open pond system, allowing the snails to dwell in what is a replica of their natural habitat. When Pak Putu Suastika turned his rice field into a couple of eight-by-eight meter ponds, he deliberately chose to farm a specific kind of freshwater snail in order to satisfy the growing customer requirement at his busy Denpasar warung, where customers were enjoying the kakul.
“My food stall needs up to 30 kilograms of freshwater snail meat per day to satisfy the customers, and the demand just keeps increasing,” explains Suastika. “I couldn’t depend solely on snails from my snail suppliers so I decided to turn my rice field into a fresh water snail farm to ensure a more stable supply.”
Having originated from a traditional Balinese chef’s background, Suastika was quite familiar with the water snail ‘style’ of cooking. Although there are many ways to cook the snail, for example, in a thin curry sauce with strong galangal and turmeric seasoning, in Bali people prefer their snails on a skewer, as satay. Pak Suastika prepares the dish by marinating each snail with a mixture of shallot, garlic, salt, palm sugar and ginger to make satay kakul. His spicy soup is also fun to eat as the meat comes right off the shell in the mouth. Many of his customers describe how they love the dish. It seems to bring back childhood memories for the Balinese as they suck the meat out of the shells with a slurping sound.
BENEFITS OF STARTING A SNAIL FARM
In general, snail farmers are making a decent living as global demand for the delicacy increases annually. The fast food culture has generated interest in the prepared meat and now some farmers are assured a ‘ready market’ for their harvest. However, raising snails demands a great deal of time, monitoring and protecting them from human interference, theft, ants, ear wigs, toads, frogs, nematodes, fungi, millipedes, lizards and unnecessary noise. But the profitability of the business levels outweighs the challenges and soon produces a steady income to support many families within the developing world. If a grower starts a snail farm with 50 snails, he can produce up to 250,000 adult snails over a year.
“Virtually every part of a snail is useful for several purposes – economic medicinal or pharmaceutical. The financial benefits in farming far outweigh any of the challenges,” Suastika says, “As a part-time vocation, it can be successfully run alongside your usual job or other business.”
Snail meat is of a very high quality. It is low in cholesterol, sodium and fat. Hence it is good for hypertensive patients. It combats hemorrhoids’, constipation and arteriosclerosis. It is rich in iron, protein, calcium and phosphorus, with a wide range of amino acids and is therefore suitable for pregnant women. It also promotes hematopoiesis (blood formation) in anaemia patients. Snails have very few diseases and they are easy to handle, and transport. They also have a low mortality rate and high returns on investment. The snail shells can be used for livestock feed formulation because they are a good source of calcium carbonate.
Local freshwater snails are seen as an exotic food for most residents of urbanized Denpasar. Another good reason why Suastika, an experienced farmer and chef, decided to satisfy the growing demand for traditional freshwater snail delicacies at his food stall, by breeding stock on his land. Pak Suastika took some time out from cooking to share his knowledge of snails with me.
What is your farming history?
I have always been a farmer using traditional farming equipments, plowing the land and harvesting rice. Previously, I bought freshwater snails from suppliers, who collected them from rice farmers in Tabanan and shelled them for sale. When I discovered the shelled snails were three times the price of snails with their shells intact, I decided to set up a snail farm to cut costs.
What do you offer customers as an accomplished chef?
I serve only authentic Balinese cuisine in a traditional crafted village setting. To further enhance the quality of my dishes I spend hours at the local markets to source the ripest fruits, garden-fresh vegetables, and seafood, which are caught the same morning. This together with our trained staff ensures a most memorable dining experience.
What are the types of snails?
There are two kinds of freshwater snails, the river ones and the rice field ones. The river snails’ shells are yellowish and their meat is less tasty than the rice field ones. And because of the level of pollution in our rivers, many people consider the river snails as unhealthy.
How do water snails breed?
Respiration in these snails is aerial, through lungs. Their preferred habitats are stagnant to slow streaming waters with heavy vegetation. The adolescent snails spend most of their time in the mud in the middle of the ponds. The adult ones will move to the edges of the ponds to lay eggs. The snails are hermaphroditic and two snails produce large numbers of eggs in a relatively short time. Their transparent eggs are deposited in a gelatinous clutch on plants, or other objects.
What do your snails eat?
I feed the freshwater snails with leaves of gamal plants. Feeding snails not expensive. It is usually done once in a day. They are always more active at night due to the fact that this is when they feed. Although there are some specially packed feeds or mash for snails, most water snails eat algae or freshwater aquatic plants such as anarchis or elodea.
How do you prepare the snails for cooking?
The snails should remain immersed in water for 24-36 hours, and should be drained, and all the snails will be dead. The method includes boiling the snails for some time before picking the meats from the shells. The meat is then washed and rinsed repeatedly to remove the mucus before being refrigerated. It takes a special skill to cook kakul. The meat has an elastic and flavorless quality. We need to create a special mix of spices and to cook the meat for a specific period of time. It is a delicate process. Most satay from Indonesia is served with peanut sauce. However unlike Sate Madura, the sauce is usually thin and not too creamy.
What do you say to people who have never tried (kakul) snail before?
Kakul is beneficial for lowering blood pressure for those who have hypertension. The nutritional value of apple snails is relatively high and the protein content of snails can make them a good protein source for humans. A 100-g serving size of snails has only 90 calories and snails provide essential nutrients; but remember, the way you prepare them is important, too!
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