common whelks

The Humble Whelk

Many of us have fond memories of visiting the seaside and buying some seafood from a stall, dousing it in white pepper and vinegar and enjoying the taste of freshly caught and cooked shellfish such as prawns, mussels, cockles and even winkles.

For the brave souls among us, a few whelks would round off this seafood medley. The trouble with whelks is that you have to enjoy them as it can take a good few minutes to chew them. In my past experience, they are rubbery and fairly tasteless.

plate of cockles and whelks
Plate of Cockles and Whelks

Whelks used to be a very common foodstuff for the poor in some parts of Victorian London, as they were cheap and nutritious. In more recent times they have fallen out of fashion, but we still land about 10,000 tonnes of whelks a year in the UK, of which 95% go for export to the far east.

whelks being landed
Whelks Being Landed

In South Korea, whelks are a regular foodstuff, even sold as an aphrodisiac, although to be fair their dishes do seem to contain a fair bit of fresh chilli, root ginger and soy sauce to enhance the flavour.

So next time you visit the seashore, find some rocks, search out some of our humble whelks and give this recipe a go, you will never look at a whelk the same way again.

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