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

Vietnamese Street Foods: A Guide to Snails on a Plate

As a true street food lover, you should not miss the opportunity to try snails on your journey to Vietnam, a country with a great culinary tradition. Speaking of snail dishes, Saigon is agreed, by the majority, to be the ideal destination to taste this amazing Vietnamese seafood. 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. 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 Foods Culture

In Vietnam, when speaking about snails eating culture, people also means other types of seafood that are also served in snail eateries such as shells, clams, and squids. Nobody knows since 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. Every day, when the evening sets, Vietnamese street food stalls, vendors, and even fine restaurants are packed with couples and large groups of friends, family members, or colleagues. The sight of people gathering around plastic tables to chat and cheer, along with the sound of empty shells clanking on dishes has been familiar to every local and even foreign tourist.


Despite the rapid changes of a developing country, eating Vietnamese snails as the locals’ pastime shows no sign of declining in popularity. Thanks to the fact that snail dishes go wonderfully well with Vietnamese beer, and the acts of plucking meat from the shells, dipping it in special sauce, chewing, and taking a sip of cold beer seem to encourage enthusiasm and keep the conversation going. You can still enjoy these delicious snails without drinking alcohol, but it would be better to have a cold beer or Vietnamese rice wine to accompany them.

When eating snails or other seafood in Vietnamese street food stalls and vendors, you should expect using your bare hands to crack the shells open, a bit of the steaming water or sauce ripping on your hands, spattering on your shirt; however, that is why these dishes are called finger-licking good. You will be provided with small forks or toothpicks, but sometimes it is just best to use your hand, or even your mouth to tear and 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.

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What and How to Order Snails on a Plate in Vietnamese Restaurants

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

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

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

3) and what sauce or flavor or additional ingredients 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 a lot of ways to make Vietnamese snails that people can hardly resist and keep wanting more. The kinds of snails and shells vary from big to small ones such as mud creeper sea snails, sweet snails, and Asian apple snails. They are steamed, boiled, fried, grilled or even roasted. The dipping sauces that go with these dishes also play an important part in making them special. The typical ingredients to make sauces are coconut (for sweet sauce), tamarind (for sour sauce), butter/cheese (for creamy sauce), chili, ginger, garlic, Vietnamese coriander, and lemongrass.

You may feel overwhelmed by so many choices you can make. These are some popular and favored by locals Vietnamese snails we suggest you try.

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 as well as to 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 some ways to grill this snail in which 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 be taken out of 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

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 Vietnamese Snails on a Plate in Saigon

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. Here we suggest some famous places where locals go to enjoy Vietnamese snails below.

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 means they may contain harmful micro-organisms if they are not cleaned well before processing. Also, the snails need to be cooked thoroughly to meet standards of food hygiene. Therefore, when eating out, you should choose trustworthy restaurants and avoid small and messy street vendors. We only recommend eating snails that have been thoroughly well cooked.

Furthermore, there are some people who 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 get 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 matters, potential risks of eating snails in seafood restaurants. We hope that this guide into Vietnamese snails has provided you helpful information.

Find a travel insurance plan for your trip to Vietnam:

 

Read more about Ho Chi Minh Eating:

What to Expect on Your Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Food Tours
15 Vietnamese Street Food Options You Should Try
10 Unusual Vietnamese Foods to Try in Ho Chi Minh
The Best Places to Eat an Authentic Pho in Ho Chi Minh

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