Saturday, July 14, 2012

Snails - trendy street food for young Vietnamese

I'm a not that trendy to follow all new "eating trends" among the youth in Saigon! What to eat, where to eat out...but sometime I pass by certain streets and I realized ...yeah it should be something new there.
Groups of young people sitting behind small table, eating something, drinking beer or soft drink, shouting "Dzo!" for joy and toasting!

              Sò huyết (blood cockle) stirred in tamarind sauce at Sáu Nở! 

As some other "eating-out" trends, snails stalls are very down-to-earth street food and always crowded, mostly in the evening or late at night! There are some streets in Sài Gòn famous for this specialities. Vĩnh Khánh in district 4 is one of them! If you go there around 7-8 PM, you see on both sides of this street, occupied by dozen and dozen street stalls selling only snails! Most famous here are Ốc Oanh and Ốc Sáu Nở.

            My favorite - clams (nghêu) cooked with lemon grass...the soup from clam is so sweet!

I don't know since when this snail trend starts? Several years ago?
No fancy place, just on the sidewalk, widely open to the public! Snails, many kinds of sea snail, some I know, some I've never seen ...but now they are so popular, I would even say the most popular street snack food these days. Snack because this's a dish that you better eat between meals. I try only 2-3 times at different places, either before or after dinner!

             Finger nail snail (ốc móng tay!) stirred in sweet spicy sauce, topped with roast peanuts!

         Mussel (chem chép) grilled with green onion & grease, topped with roast peanuts at Ốc Sáu Nở! 

             Same dish as above but at fancy Ốc Hến in Phú Mỹ Hưng!

               Winkle (ốc mỡ) stirred in tamarind sauce at nicely decorated Ốc Hến in Phú Mỹ Hưng!

              Rice snails (ốc gạo) cooked with lemon grass and some other herbs!  

The most popular since long time is "ốc len xào dừa"(Obtuse Horn shell or Mud Creeper stirred in coconut sauce, mixed with lemon grass, chili and topped with traditional Vietnamese mint (rau răm). The sauce is very tasty, a bit sweet, a bit spicy and flavorful with "rau răm", the snail meat is a bit lubricating! To eat this snail is quite funny, you blow from the broken tail, and suck from the head, the meat automatically comes to your mouth!

             Popular mud creeper (ốc len xào dừa) stirred in coconut sauce, topped with rau răm!

Another famous snail is ốc hương (scent snail ? - according to some explanation, this snail has quite nice scent when even it's raw compared to other snails!), this snail is expensive, half dozen of big size snail can cost 5-6 USD!  It can cook with lemon grass, chili or fried with chili & salt! The meat is chewy and yummy!

             Ốc hương stirred in salt, chili and garlic at Ốc Hến in Phú Mỹ Hưng

         Same dish as above at Sáu Nở
There are many snails that I can't remember their names...remember when order from the menu, but back home most names gone away from my memory!

      I already forgot the name! 
              Grilled oyster and other snail - topped with cheese! 

            Winkle (Ốc mỡ) stirred with butter at Ốc Sáu Nở! 
           Popular clam cooked with lemon grass, chili! 
          and another snail stirred with garlic & green onion! 

Snail stall at Ốc Sáu Nở

Some other snails can be stirred even with butter, and you can order an extra bread to eat with the butter sauce, some snail grilled with cheese!

Still many snails in the menu! If you want to try, or at least to feel the atmosphere where the youth enjoy after office hours, I may recommend Ốc Oanh (all places have been named after the owner, my guess!) or Ốc Sáu Nở opposite Ốc Oanh in Vinh Khanh street, district 4 - not very far from Sài gòn center, just across the bridge Ông Lãnh, or Ốc Đào in Nguyễn Trãi district 5, walking distance from backpack area, but the snail here is smaller compared to the first two places.

Week ago I was invited to a luxury restaurant called "Ốc Hến" where they serve only snails in upscale area Phú Mỹ Hưng. Nice decorated place, good service, super clean, quiet...and the price is almost the same as street stall, but quite empty! So I wonder eating snails, the youth may prefer a place on the street, open air? 

Snail is not my favorite, but going there I feel how young and middle-aged people in Sài gòn enjoy exotic dishes, drinking, talking, sometime shouting ... quite dynamic picture of Sài gòn life style in the evening!

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  1. Delicious! Just bumped into your blog today and I was stunned! Thanks for all the great photos and notes :)


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