Hoi khom nahm jim talay – Whelks with a spicy seafood dipping sauce



First published in 2022
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Sea snails, or whelks, are a popular seafood in Southern Thailand, simply steamed with a pungent dipping sauce that is both very spicy and very sour. Wild whelks are caught in our British seas and can easily be sourced by any good fishmongers. Sadly they lack popularity, probably due to their appearance, but when cooked correctly they are as delicious as the more common clams consumed on these shores each year.




  • 500g of live whelks
  • 2l water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 bird's eye chillies, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of coriander root, cleaned and chopped (stems is also fine if you can't find roots)
  • 1 tbsp of palm sugar, (or use caster sugar)
  • 6 tbsp of lime juice
  • 4 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 2 handfuls of ice cubes, for chilling the whelks

Begin by soaking the whelks in cold water for 12 hours, refreshing the water every few hours

  • 500g of live whelks

When you're ready to cook, combine the water and salt in a large pan and bring to a rapid boil. Add the whelks and simmer for 5 minute before draining and chilling in iced water. It’s best to remove one whelk and test to see if it is cooked through; it should be tender with a pleasant bite but not chewy. Boil the whelks in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan

  • 2l water
  • 1 tsp salt

Using a fork, carefully remove the whelks from the shells, trying to pull them out in a single piece. Remove and discard the hard disc on the foot end, the stomach sack, and a small bit of muscle (identifiable by it feeling tougher than the rest of the whelk meat). Rinse the remaining whelk meat thoroughly of any sand or grit and drain on absorbent paper. Give the whelk shells a good scrub as these will be used later for serving


Make the spicy seafood sauce by pounding the chillies, garlic, coriander root and salt in a mortar and pestle until you achieve a smooth paste. Add the palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Mix everything together so that the sugar is dissolved and the ingredients are well combined. It will taste very spicy and sour


Place the whelk meat back into the cleaned shells and serve alongside the spicy seafood dipping sauce. Serve with toothpicks to prise the whelk meat from the shell before dipping in the sauce

First published in 2022
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