Amidst the picturesque landscapes and bustling streets of Vietnam travel lies a culinary adventure waiting to be explored – Vietnamese snail dishes. From humble to elaborate preparations, snails have become a beloved Vietnamese food throughout the country.
1. A glimpse of eating snails in Vietnam
In Vietnam, snails aren’t just a meal, they are a part of the nation’s heritage that spans thousands of years. The culinary tradition of eating snails isn’t a recent trend but a deep-rooted practice dating back to ancient times.
Vietnam’s snail scene is a diverse tapestry of flavors. From Hanoi’s hearty snail porridges to the lively snail offerings in Saigon, each region has its own snail specialty. Unlike the French who focus on a few snail types, Vietnamese snail dishes embrace a wide range, from small river snails to sizable saltwater conches.
Imagine a night in Vietnam aglow with lantern light, where food enthusiasts revel in delightful Vietnamese snail dishes. Plates filled with chewy and salty snails grace the tables accompanied by icy beer. The snails are relished with various techniques – sucking, forking, scooping, and slurping.
Vietnamese cooks, skilled in snail catching and farming, have crafted numerous mouth-watering snail recipes. Each offers a unique taste, reflecting Vietnam’s culinary heritage.
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2. Top 7 Vietnamese snail dishes that you should try
2.1. Boiled or steamed snails with lemongrass (oc luoc/oc hap xa)
Boiled or steamed snails with lemongrass embody the essence of Vietnamese street food culture. Initially considered rustic fare, snails have evolved into beloved delicacies in Hanoi. In this dish, mountain snails sourced from the limestone-rich province of Ninh Binh are boiled with aromatic lemongrass, ginger, and red chili peppers. The snails’ brittle texture contrasts perfectly with the sweet-and-sour sauce. Diners meticulously extract the snail meat, relishing the chewy delight while immersing themselves in the flavors of the vibrant Vietnamese streets.
2.2. Snails fried with tamarind juice (oc xao me) – a must-try Vietnamese snail food
Oc xao me is a culinary masterpiece on the Vietnam food list. Whole snails are deep-fried to perfection and bathed in a luscious sweet and sour tamarind sauce. The preparation involves a meticulous process of extracting tamarind juice, infusing it with minced onions, garlic, and chili peppers, and seasoning the mixture to perfection. The succulent jackfruit snails are stir-fried until they absorb the flavors of the sauce entirely. The resulting Vietnamese snail dish is a harmonious blend of tangy, sweet, and savory notes, creating a symphony of flavors that delight the senses.
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2.3. Vietnamese snail noodle soup (bun oc)
Bun oc, a Vietnamese bun dish, is a delightful treat featuring tender snails cooked in a flavorful tomato-based broth. This Vietnamese snail dish is prepared by simmering freshwater snails in a pot with aromatic ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, and chili. The vibrant colors of red tomatoes, green herbs, and white vermicelli noodles create an appealing visual contrast. To enjoy, place the snails on top of the noodles, ladle the savory broth over them, and garnish with fresh herbs. The broth’s sweet and tangy notes combined with the snail’s subtle flavors offer a harmonious culinary experience.
2.4. Snail pies (cha oc) – one of the best Vietnamese snail dishes
Snail pies are exquisite treats featuring minced snail meat encased in a crispy golden crust. The snail meat, blended with ingredients like minced pork, fat, wood ear mushrooms, and shallots, creates a flavorful filling. This mixture is carefully encased in a thin pastry shell and steamed until perfection. The pies boast a delightful contrast between the crunchy exterior and the savory filling inside. Served alongside dipping sauces, this Vietnamese snail dish offers a tantalizing blend of textures and tastes, making them a favorite among food enthusiasts.
2.5. Vietnamese snails in coconut milk (oc len xao dua)
This Vietnamese snail dish presents mud creeper snails cooked to perfection in a creamy coconut sauce. The snails are soaked in rice water to remove any residual mucus, ensuring a clean taste. They are then stir-fried with aromatic lemongrass, garlic, and chili, creating a fragrant medley. The addition of coconut milk lends a velvety texture and a subtle sweetness to the dish. The vibrant colors of the snails, coconut milk, and fresh herbs make for an eye-catching presentation. To relish this delicacy, diners use small straws to extract the tender snail meat from the shells, savoring the creamy coconut sauce with each slurp. The combination of textures and flavors makes this dish a culinary delight which is especially famous in Mekong Delta Vietnam.
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2.6. Snail spring rolls (nem oc)
Snail spring rolls offer a delightful twist on the traditional Vietnamese spring rolls. In this dish, minced snail meat is combined with ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, glass noodles, carrots, purple onions, minced shallots, and aromatic spices. The mixture is meticulously wrapped in rice paper, incorporating the flavors and textures of the ingredients. The rolls are then lightly fried, creating a crispy exterior that contrasts beautifully with the succulent filling. Served with a dipping sauce, this Vietnamese snail dish provides a satisfying crunch and a burst of flavors with each bite, making it a popular choice among food enthusiasts.
2.7. Snail hotpot (lau oc) – a delicious Vietnamese snail recipe
Snail hotpot showcases the rich flavors of snails, tender beef, and crispy tofu. The hotpot base is prepared by sautéing dried shallots and lemongrass in oil, infusing the broth with a delightful aroma. Chopped tomatoes are added, imparting a natural sweetness to the broth. The star ingredients, which are snails, beef, and tofu, are cooked in the simmering broth, absorbing the nuanced flavors of the aromatic ingredients. The dish’s complexity is further enhanced by the addition of vinegar for a hint of acidity and chili for a subtle kick. Served bubbling hot, this snail hotpot, among other Vietnamese hotpots, is a culinary masterpiece that tantalizes the taste buds with its exquisite blend of textures and tastes.
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Vietnamese snail dishes are windows into the nation’s rich heritage. The meticulous preparation, the blend of spices, and the creative presentation in each dish reflect the deep-rooted culinary expertise passed down through generations. With every bite, you will taste the culinary creativity of Vietnam. So, let these savory delights guide your palate on a journey through Vietnamese traditions, offering a taste of the past and the present all in one exquisite bite.