One of the main meals I really wanted to eat when I was in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) was a Vietnamese snail feast.
Many Vietnamese love to eat snails – not only because they are delicious – but I also think because they are a wonderful social food to share among friends and family.
By complete chance, just seconds from the hotel I stayed at for nearly my entire trip to Saigon (highly recommended place to stay – affiliate link), there were a couple of popular snail restaurants.
Walking down the street one evening, I contemplated for a while, and for no real reason other than there was a nice table and chairs available, I chose to eat at Quán Ốc A Sòi restaurant.
It’s never hard to locate a Quán Ốc, or a snail restaurant, in Saigon, because just like in much of Asia, the fresh food is always on display outside the restaurant, so you can see what you’re about to eat.
Nothing beverage goes better with salty chew snails than beer, and it seemed that nearly everyone I saw who sat down, especially the men, all came for beer.
I had a Saigon Export, which definitely did go extremely well with the snail dishes I ordered.
Although it’s not too difficult to located a snail restaurant in Saigon, I did have some confusion ordering. But then again, not knowing exactly what you’re about to eat, is part of the joy of traveling and eating and trying new things.
Ốc A Sòi, and I think most Vietnamese snail restaurants, do have a full listed menu, but sometimes the menu doesn’t include everything and if you don’t know the names of the dishes, it can be challenging.
Basically, as I figured out, there were about five different ways to order the snails: steamed, fried, sautéed, coated in chili and salt, or grilled, and there were a number of different toppings as well, ranging from lemongrass, to coconut milk, to chili sauce, to scallions and crushed peanuts.
Kind of like in Yangon, choosing all the different skewers, I decided to go up to the street side snails buffet, and order by choosing which snails and shellfish I wanted to eat and then just sort of winging it on the style of cooking.
Half of the available selection of snails and shellfish, I had no clue what they were.
When I was in Saigon, I at at Quán Ốc A Sòi a number of times, not only because the food was good, but also because it was so close, to where I was staying, so it was so convenient to sit down for dinner.
On my first meal, I didn’t order too much, because I had eaten a huge lunch.
Here’s what I ate on my first visit:
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Ốc mỡ – common periwinkle
I also orderedốc mỡ, known in English as a common periwinkle, it was a nice smallish snail, which had a texture and flavor very similar to other snails – slightly chewy, and it took on the flavor of what it was cooked in – this time a sweet chili sauce with lots of onions and green onions.
This was also a great plate of snails, although the chili sauce was a little sweet and not quite spicy enough for my personal taste buds, but nevertheless delicious.
Tôm sú – grilled shrimp
How could you ever go wrong with grilled shrimp?
Any type of shrimp, both saltwater and the freshwater types, are some of my favorite things to do in the world. These were saltwater shrimp, which were first skewered, then grilled over charcoal.
The meat was firm and sweet, and delicious with nothing more than a squeeze of lime juice.
Miến xào cua – mung bean noodles with crab
In addition to the roasted shrimp and the periwinkle snails, I also ordered a plate of miến xào cua, mung bean noodles stir fried with vegetables and pieces of boneless crab.
I enjoyed the vegetables and noodles combination and the pieces of crab were excellent too. I liked how it wasn’t greasy, but fried dry and fragrant.
The food at Quán Ốc A Sòi was delicious my first time eating there, but since one visit, with only two of us, was hardly sufficient to taste a range of Vietnamese snails dishes, we returned again a few days later.
Here’s what we ate on meal number two:
Ốc len xào dừa – mud creeper snail
At the front of the restaurant, sitting in a pot next to all the raw fresh sea snails, I saw something that looked like some type of snail stewed in a thick white coconut looking curry.
Then I saw the same picture on the menu, and decided to go for it.
The little snails, after researching them, turned out to be mud creeper, or more officially known as cerithidea obtusa, a seawater mollusk.
I had no idea how to eat them, and as I tried to poke my little snail fork into the shell to pull out the meat inside, there was nothing there. That’s when one of the waiters motioned to me that I needed to suck them.
So I sucked on the hole of the shell, and out popped a little slimy worm-like snail. It was almost the consistency of an oyster, only long and skinny and a bit slimy.
The curry was coconut milk based, on the sweet side, and topped with a handful of rough-cut Vietnamese coriander.
Ốc hương rang muối ớt – Babylonia areolata
Next up was a dish called ốc hương rang muối ớt, some type of Babylonia areolata snail, which was I think dry stir fried in a hot pan, and then coated in a mixture of salt, chili, and lime juice.
These snails, unlike the mud creeper snails, were much easier to poke and pull out of their shells.
They had a similar texture to squid, slightly rubbery and chew, but with good flavor. The outside seasoning tasted almost like a dry rub marinade, salty, slightly spicy, and a little sour.
Mì gói xào bò – noodles with beef
For a Vietnamese dish a little more filling than the little plates of delicious snails, I ordered a plate of noodles, which I think were instant noodles, topped with stir fried beef.
The noodles were good, although I didn’t know I was getting instant noodles when I ordered, and the beef was tender and salty, fried with plenty of garlic. It was a great plate of noodles.
Even if you’re not so interested in eating snails, oftentimes the snail restaurants in Saigon will offer some non-snail dishes as well.
Rau muống xào tỏi – water morning glory
To balance everything with some vegetables, I also ordered a plate of stir fried water morning glory, a vegetable that’s commonly eaten throughout southeast Asia.
Unlike in Thailand where it’s nearly always fried with chilies, this was only morning glory fried with big cloves of garlic. It was nice and crisp, and actually my favorite part were the seared cloves.
Sò điệp nướng mỡ hành – scallops
One of the popular Vietnamese methods of cooking snails and shellfish is grilled, then topped with burning scallion oil and scallions, and then sprinkled with chopped peanuts.
Honestly, I didn’t think the nutty flavor of the peanuts would pair very well with the sweet scallops, but I was wrong. The sò điệp nướng mỡ hành turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night.
The scallops were grilled first, so they had a bit of a smokey flavor, and they were then enhanced with fragrant scallion oil, and the bunch of peanuts. It was a sensational combination.
I also added a squeeze of lime juice, and some chilies to my scallop, and slurped it down, chasing it with leaves of Vietnamese coriander again.
Last but not least, as I was browsing through the menu, attempting to search for one more dish to order, when our waiter suggested something called ốc tỏi.
Though I had no clue what it was, I had nothing to lose, and only more delicious food to gain, so I followed the advice of our waiter.
These snails were huge, the type of shells I’ve seen as decorations in people’s homes. I think they were grilled, but I’m not totally sure, then coated in a sweet chili sauce.
I’ve researched them since, and although the translation of ốc tỏi comes up as garlic snails, they don’t look anything like what’s pictures. So I’m not totally sure what they were, but all I know is they were good.
I used my two prong fork to poke them and I actually had to use some leverage to pry it out of the shell. The meat was almost identical in flavor and texture to squid, with a nice sweet chili sauce glaze on top.
Our water was right, despite the ốc tỏi looking a little scary, they were indeed delicious.
Watch the full video of this delicious meal here:
(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zqagaz2WHxU)
When I was in Saigon, Vietnam, I was excited to eat a meal of sea snails, which are extremely popular. Just down the street from my hotel, I found Ốc A Sòi, a Vietnamese snail restaurant. The food was fantastic and not only were the snails delicious, they were also incredibly fun to eat.
Eating a snail meal in Saigon, Vietnam, is one of the great dining experiences the city has to offer. If you love to eat seafood, make it your priority to have at least a meal of two of snails when you’re in Vietnam… even if you have no clue what you’re ordering or eating!
Do you like snails?
Quán Ốc A Sòi Restaurant – Saigon, Vietnam
Address: 327 – 329 Nguyen Thuong Hien, Quater 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: 4 pm – 10 pm daily
Prices: I ate at Quán Ốc A Sòi twice, our first bill came to 281,000 VND ($13.16) and our second meal came to 389,000 VND ($18.22). Not extremely cheap, but good value for all the sea snails and incredibly satisfying.
How to get there: Depending on where you’re coming from, you can either walk or take a taxi. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the Pham Ngu Lao area. See my Saigon food map for more details about how to get here.