VietnamFood & DrinksVietnamese Street Foods: A Guide to Snails on a Plate

Vietnamese Street Foods: A Guide to Snails on a Plate

As an authentic street food lover, you should not miss the opportunity to try snails on your journey to Vietnam. Speaking of snail dishes, the majority agree that Saigon is the ideal destination to taste this fantastic Vietnamese seafood. This blog will provide you a complete guide into snails on a plate, what to order, how and where to eat them, as well as some notes on food safety.

Snails in Vietnamese Street Food Culture

In Vietnam, when speaking about snail-eating culture, people also mean other types of seafood served in snail eateries, such as shells, clams, and squids. Nobody knows when snail-eating has become an irreplaceable part of the “nhau” culture – which in Vietnamese refers to a social gathering that involves eating and, most importantly, drinking in an open and lively atmosphere.

While Hanoi’s snails are usually boiled/steamed with lemongrass or lemon leaves, Saigon’s seafood restaurants have diverse ways of cooking that bring out every delicious flavor of the snails and ingredients. However, the Vietnamese coriander is almost ubiquitous in this dish, regardless of the region.

When eating snails or other seafood in Vietnamese street food stalls and vendors, you should expect to use your bare hands to crack the shells open. However, that is why these dishes are called finger-licking good. You will have small forks or toothpicks, but sometimes, it is just best to use your hand or mouth to slurp the meat out from the shells. Learning to adapt and to love this yummy delicacy would be a memorable experience of eating like a Vietnamese local.

Check out more fun things to do in Ho Chi Minh City:

What and How to Order Snails on a Plate

When coming to a snail eatery, you should follow these three steps.

1) select the type of snail you want from the pictures in this guide or the fresh baskets of snails on display (if any).

2) you choose the way it will be cooked (steamed or grilled)

3) what sauce or flavor or additional ingredients do you wish it to be prepared with (tamarind sauce, lemongrass, green peppers, green onions, peanuts, morning glory, etc.)

Seafood restaurants’ chefs and stallholders are very creative in using many ways to cook Vietnamese snails. They are steamed, boiled, fried, grilled or even roasted. The dipping sauces that go with these dishes also play an essential part.

You may feel overwhelmed by so many choices. We suggest you try these popular and favored Vietnamese snails.

Mud creeper sea snails stir-fried in coconut sauce (Ốc len xào dừa)

vietnamese street food snails oc len xao dua

The little snails are fried and dipped in a mild green and rich curry-style coconut sauce. To eat this, you have to slurp on the shell’s hole to take out a tiny soft and skinny snail inside and fully taste the wonderfully sweet and creamy sauce made from coconut milk.

Average price: VND 50,000 – VND 70,000/plate

Sweet snails (Ốc hương) Babylonia areolata

vietnamese street food snails oc huong hap

There are ways to grill this snail, where lemongrass and a mixture of salt, chili, and lime juice are most commonly used. The well-seasoned snail is a bit rubbery, chewy and easy to remove from the shell.

Average price: VND 50,000 – VND 100,000/plate

Clams steamed with lemongrass (Nghêu hấp sả)

vietnamese street food snails steamed claims
Average price: VND 50,000 – VND 70,000/plate

Blood cockles stir-fried with chili and onions (Sò huyết)

vietnamese street food snails blood cockles

Pomacea canaliculata (Ốc bươu)

vietnamese street food snails oc buu tieu xanh
Order the snails grilled or steamed
vietnamese street food snails oc hap

Vietnamese grilled mussels (Chem Chép)

vietnamese street food snails oc chem chep mo hanh
Grilled mussels with green onions, oil, and topped with peanuts
vietnamese street food snails oc so long mo hanh

Scallops grilled with spring onions and peanuts (Sò điệp)

vietnamese street food snails oc so diep nuong mo hanh

Average price: VND 50,000 – VND 70,000/plate

Solenidae, also known as Razor shells (Ốc móng tay)

vietnamese street food snails oc mong tay rau muong
Razor shells stir-fried with morning glory or grilled with green onions and peanuts
vietnamese street food snails oc mong tay mo hanh

Canarium snails (Ốc cà na)

vietnamese street food snails oc ca na

Common periwinkle snails (Ốc mỡ)

vietnamese street food snails oc mo xao me
Periwinkle snails stir-fried in tamarind sauce or garlic
vietnamese street food snails oc mo xao mo

Melo melo (Ốc giác)

vietnamese street food snails oc giac rau muong
Giant sea snails, melo melo, sliced and stir-fried with morning glory and ramen noodles

Other Vietnamese Street foods you can get with snails

vietnamese street food snails crab claws
Grilled crab claws
vietnamese street food snails grilled shrimp
Skewers of grilled shrimps
vietnamese street food snails chicken feet
Grilled chicken feet with chili dipping sauce
vietnamese street food snails chicken wings
Grilled chicken wings
vietnamese street foods quail egg
Boiled fertilized quail egg with Vietnamese coriander

Where to Eat Snails in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

In Saigon, it is never difficult to find a snail eatery. As a favorite Vietnamese street food and cheap eat, you can easily recognize the street vendors and stalls by first sight with their familiar display, sound, and atmosphere. Most of them are open from late afternoon until late at night. Below, we suggest some famous places where locals enjoy Vietnamese snails.

1. Oc Dao
Address: 212B Alley, Nguyen Trai Street, District 1

2. Oc Oanh
Address: 534 Vinh Khanh Street, District 4

3. Oc To
Address: C218 Xom Chieu Street, District 4

4. Oc Thao
Address: 237/8 Hoang Dieu Street, District 4

5. Oc Loan
Address: 175/26 Nguyen Thien Thuat street, District 3

6. Oc Mam Sua
Address: 282/4A Bui Huu Nghia Street, Ward 2, Binh Thanh District

7. Oc Nhu
Address: 650/4/29D Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3

vietnamese street food snails on grill
Ensure that snails have been thoroughly cooked before consuming

Vietnamese Snails on a Plate and Food Safety

Snails are aquatic animals living in mud, which may contain harmful micro-organisms if not cleaned well before processing. Also, the snails must be cooked thoroughly to meet food hygiene standards. Therefore, you should choose trustworthy restaurants and avoid small and messy street vendors when eating out. We only recommend eating snails that have been thoroughly well-cooked.

Furthermore, some people should not eat snails such as:

Summary of Vietnamese Street Foods: a Guide to Snails on a Plate

Snails on a plate have been such a favorite and delicious Vietnamese street food for generations. Over the years, the dishes have become more and more diverse thanks to the locals’ creativity and learning from other cultures. However, as a foreign tourist, you should always be mindful of food safety and the potential risks of eating snails in seafood restaurants. We hope this guide to Vietnamese snails has provided you with helpful information.

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