Whelk, Whelk, Whelk, What Do We Have Here?


Whelks are sea snails that live in the waters of the Atlantic.  Their pointy and spiraled shaped shells are quite distinguishable.  Make sure they are still alive when you buy them.  Give them a light tap on the shell or light shake to see if there is any movement.  I bought the whelks at a Korean supermarket and found quite a few with hermit crabs inside, so make sure to check none of them have taken over the shells as their residence…unless you’re looking for a few cheap pets to take home.  It’s ok, the thought did cross my mind.  While the shells may make whelks seem intimidating to cook, don’t be afraid, it’s really quite easy!

Don’t be afraid of whelks!

Once back in the kitchen, scrub the shells down to remove dirt and loose pieces of shell. Submerge them in a bowl of water for a few minutes.  Drain the water, cover with a damp paper towel and store  in the fridge until ready to cook.

Throw them in a pot of boiling water for 10-12 minutes depending on size.  Over cooking will result in hard and rubbery flesh.


Once time is up, remove the whelks from the water and let the shells cool down for a few minutes.  Remove the meat from the shell with a pin or skewer.


Cut off the entrails and throw them away.  Remove the hard thin film that is attached to the head of the whelk.


Keep the shells for garnishing/plating.

I like to dip the tender and slightly chewy flesh in a soy and vinegar mixture.  I prepare it while the whelks are cooking.

Whelk Soy/Vinegar Mix Dipping Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger  juice
  • 1 clove of garlic smashed and finely chopped

Mix the ingredients together and wait about 5 minutes for the garlic flavor and notes to permeate throughout the liquid.




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