Eat More Fish – Whelks in Spicy Oyster Sauce With Noodles

Whelks are often misunderstood. Compared to snails and generally served either pickled or as rubbery as you like. We usually have our whelks steamed lightly in salted water or broth if we are serving them up at La Petite Bouchee for a Fruit de Mer night or I love them picked and sliced very finely spritzed with lime, soy and mirin with a blob of wasabi. Perfect. Today we are keeping with the Asian theme and stir-frying our whelk meat in a spicy oyster sauce and serving it with noodles. So about the humble whelk?
Whelk is the name given to various kinds of sea snail, many of which have been used for centuries, are still used, by humans and other animals as food. Although many whelks are quite large and come from the family Buccinidae (the true whelks), the word whelk is also used for some other marine mollusc species within several families of sea snails that are not particularly closely related.

The common name “whelk” (also welk orwilks) comes from the German root “weluka”, which may in turn come from the Indo-European word “wel-“, meaning to turn or revolve. In the United States, whelks are several large edible species from the genera Busycon and Busycotypus, which are now classified in the family Buccinidae. These are sometimes called Busycon whelks. The unrelated invasive murex Rapana venosa, from the family Muricidae, is referred to as the Veined rapa whelk or Asian rapa whelk. In the British Isles, Belgium and the Netherlands, the word is used for a number of species in the family Buccinidae, especially Buccinum undatum, an edible European and Northern Atlantic species. To confuse matters, in the British Isles, the name “dog whelk” is used for Nucella lapillus (family Muricidae) and for Nassarius species (family Nassariidae) and in Scotland, the word “whelk” is also used to mean the periwinkle (Littorina littorea), family Littorinidae.
In the English-speaking islands of the West Indies, the word whelks or wilks (this word is both singular and plural) is applied to the large edible Cittarium pica, also known as the magpie or West Indian top shell, from the family Trochidae. In Japan, whelks are frequently used in sashimi and sushi. In Vietnam, they are served in a dish called Bún ốc – vermicelli with sea snails. And in Australia and New Zealand, species of the genus Cabestana (family Ranellidae) are called predatory whelks.


  • A large glug of  peanut oil
  • 500 g cooked whelks, picked and thinly sliced
  • 1 can of bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
  • 1 courgettes, sliced into ribbons with a peeler
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • A finger of grated ginger
  • A large splash of light soy sauce
  • A tbsp oyster sauce ( don’t over do it or it becomes very salty) 
  • A drizzle of  sesame oil
  • spring onions, finely sliced
  • A large handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • A pack of fresh thin egg noodles
  • A large pinch of toasted sesame seeds


Heat the peanut oil in a wok until it is smoking. Add the whelks and bamboo shoot and stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the wok and place to one-side whilst you stir fry the garlic, chilli and ginger. Add the soy and oyster sauce then return the whelks and bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes. As the sauce starts to thicken add the 4 of the spring onions and the coriander. Make sure all the ingredients are combined equally. Set to one side. Add the noodles to a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes, before draining them and adding a drizzle of sesame oil. Place the noodles on a plate and add the whelks sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Whelks in spicy sauce


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers