Recipe: Imagined Snail Noodle Soup
CELEBRATE LUNAR NEW YEAR WITH SNAILS!
For the last few months, I’ve been down a rabbit hole trying to make luó sī fěn, 螺螄粉, literally translated as “snail rice noodle.” It’s a specialty dish hailing from Liuzhou, a city in Guangxi, a southern region of China bordering Vietnam that boasts steep mountains and intersecting rivers. The dish captures the geography of the area well: river snails perfume the broth; the noodles are made from rice given the prevalence of rice paddies; and of course the pickled bamboo shoots, which grow well in the climate, that give the dish its signature stink—earning its name as the “durian of soup.”
Despite having been around for decades, luo si fen only saw a meteoric rise in the past few years due to high-end packaging technology. Instant luo si fen—as in prepackaged—has become a quarantine luxury, each parcel comprised of an entire orchestra of smaller plastic packages. Dried noodles, soup base, bamboo shoot, fried tofu skin, peanuts, pickled cow bean, the toppings go on. In 2020, instant luo si fen captured $1.5 billion in Chinese sales alone. (For comparison, Nongshim, the world’s 5th largest ramen company and the makers of Shin ramyun and Parasite-famous Chapaguri, sold $1.85 billion instant noodles worldwide in 2020.)
Yeah, it’s f*cking nuts. The minute I started reading about luo si fen, I knew I needed to try it. The small problem being…almost no restaurants in the U.S. serve it, and none near me. The few instances of stateside coverage has been of now-closed spots; the only one that seems still to be open is in Virginia. So…the only option was to actually make the dish myself if I wanted to eat it.
Enter: Months of imagining what the heck luo si fen tastes like, philosophizing on the purpose of recipes as sensory roadmaps, and recipe testing. I’m so happy to finally debut my “imagined snail noodle soup” recipe today, via my newsletter. Link here: https://waytoocomplicated.substack.com/p/recipe-imagined-snail-noodle-soup