A Tasty Introduction to Eating Snails in Saigon, Vietnam

By Mark Wiens 31 Comments
Ốc
Ốc – Eating sea snails in Saigon, Vietnam

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.

sea snails to eat
So many beautiful snails and shellfish to choose from

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.

snails
Many people love to drink beer with snails

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.

Blood cockles
Blood cockles

Ordering snails

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.

snails in Vietnam
To order, first choose your snails and shellfish

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.

Vietnamese food
…then decide how to you want them cooked

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.

seafood in Saigon
About to eat at Quán Ốc A Sòi, a seafood restaurant in Saigon

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:

common periwinkle
Ốc mỡ, common periwinkle, fried in sweet chili

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
Tôm sú – grilled shrimp in Saigon

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
Miến xào cua, mung bean noodles with crab

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:

eating mud creeper snails
Ốc len xào dừa – popular mud creeper snails in coconut sauce

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.

street food in Vietnam
Ốc hương rang muối ớt – Babylonia areolata

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.

Vietnamese food
Chewy and flavorful

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
Mì gói xào bò – noodles with beef

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.

Vietnamese food
Rau muống xào tỏi – stir fried water morning glory

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
Sò điệp nướng mỡ hành – scallops topped with scallions and peanuts

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.

Vietnamese scallops
This was one of my favorite dishes of the meal

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.

Ốc tỏi
Ốc tỏi – jumbo snails, and delicious

Ốc tỏi

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.

garlic snails
They were one of my favorites along with the scallops

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.

Seafood in Vietnam
Quán Ốc A Sòi snail and seafood restaurant in Saigon, Vietnam

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)

Conclusion

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.

31 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Kenneth

    3 years ago

    Thanks Mark for the blog and youtube vids. Helped me alot on getting the best foods around Saigon. Oc A Soi is one of the better Oc restaurants I eaten in Saigon.

    Keep up the good work!!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Kenneth, great to hear from you, glad had a great time eating in Saigon!

  • Dustin Tran

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark! I enjoyed all your videos. I am about to go to Vietnam for Tet 2016 and learning more about your food places you went. I am trying to find your “See my Saigon food map”. Where can I can find the map you mentioned? Keep up the good work Mark, love all your videos!

  • Anh Thu

    4 years ago

    Thanh you very much for your sharing on youtube. I am from Saigon and now living in Denmark. It is very difficult to find snails here so i miss my hometown’s snail dishes very much. I took my Danish husband to eat snails every time we come back Vietnam. But unlucliky he does not like snails at all. One time, when we were eating in a snail restaurant. He saw the Steak House in the opposite site of the Road. He begged me to eat steak instead. Anyway, I like to see how u enjoy to eat snails. So cool!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Anh, good to hear from you, and glad you enjoy eating snails as well!

  • Bill

    4 years ago

    Mark, my father and I ate at Quán ốc A Sòi back in 2013 since we heard about “Snail Street” on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. We thought it was “okay”, but saw your video and blog about this, and decided it was definitely time to get out to “Snail Street” again and give it a reprise during a 2015 revisit. The place was 10x better the second time around, especially since I played your YouTube video fromn my phone and showed the waiter exactly what you ordered. Ốc A Sòi gave us the full treatment; the peanut & scallop combination, HUGE snails you can fit in your hand, and wonderful vegetable entrees. I’m so glad we took your advice which was more helpful than the big budget Travel Channel documentaries.

    We’ll be back there in January, and this is a place we will certainly not pass up. I hope David’s experience with the place being closed and the guys being “too rich to cook” isn’t true–we really loved eating there. It was also funny that the same woman in the video that was selling you the trinkets was there to sell to us while eating!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Bill, great to hear from you, thank you for your kind words, and so happy to hear about your good experience eating here. Haha, I love that entire street and environment, such a wonderful place. I’m sure David’s experience was not typical, but they just happen to have an off day and had a bit too much to drink. Great to hear you’ll be going back to Saigon in January, hope you have an excellent trip!

  • David

    4 years ago

    Your reviews are helpful and inspirational! My wife and I tried a few recommendations while we were in Saigon recently, we had a wonderful experience. Except Oc A Soi restaurant, it’s a missed!

    It was an adventure trying to find this place. The address is actually 237-239 Nguyen Thuong Hien in District 3 (Q3). We went there on a Monday evening only to find it closed! There was a table with 7 guys sitting outside drinking copious amount of liquor. They reeked of ethanol! When I asked them if I found the right place, they responded, “Yes, but we make so much money, we closed today.” One guy stood up slowly, introduced himself as the owner, he handed me a glass full of whiskey, then said “100/100”, that’s “bottom’s up”. I took the shot, I couldn’t be rude. They all cheered loudly. I asked if they would open the next day. They all laughed, the owner said, “Maybe, but we are so rich, why work.” It’s was a strange experience to say the least.

    Luckily, Nguyen Thuong Hien street is filled with similar snails restaurants (Quan Oc). My wife and I strolled down the street to 174 Nguyen Thuong Hien, at Hoang restaurant . This place was cooking up a storm by a few super sweet ladies. Even though I can speak some Vietnamese, ordering snails, and other dishes here required a bit of familiarity. The ladies were very nice, and took their time pointing out the menu. We ordered most items you recommended, using your pictures. It was an amazing experience! The experience might be for everyone, eating a meal while traffic zipping by closely, people are literally staring at your food on scooters, it was a memorable dinner!

    FYI: Co Lieng restaurant (serving Bo La Lop) has a cut out article with your picture on the wall! Keep up the great work! Many thanks!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi David, great to hear from you, and thank you for sharing your story. Sorry to hear about the unfortunate experience about this particular restaurant, but glad it turned out well in the end and that you found a more friendly restaurant serving the same food on the same street. So many good looking restaurants along that entire street.

      Thank you also for sharing about Co Lieng, now I’m dreaming about some bo la lot!

    • Jess

      4 years ago

      I admire the Vietnamese way of life and thinking though – there is a strong sense of contentment and balance. They should enjoy their life and have time to enjoy the fruits of their labour. There’s no point just slaving away when you can afford to relax once in a while. I think it’s great that they aren’t just chasing money. I know it sucks for us customers sometimes, but I do like how a lot of Vietnamese street food and eateries are very flexible and take afternoon breaks to rest, nap, get on with life. I respect that spontaneity and enjoyment of life.

      Mark, this post had me salivating throughout. I love Vietnamese food and have tried everything on this list. One thing I realised was the lack of desserts. Do you have any Vietnamese dessert recommendations? I love their pandan waffles and che ba mau (or che in general, there’s so many varieties). Also, love all the tropical and colourful fruits as well – I felt so healthy eating in Vietnamese because all the fresh herbs and veggies and all the fruit platters after a meal.

      • Mark Wiens

        4 years ago

        Hey Jess, thank you for the thoughtful comment. That’s a great way to put it.

        As for desserts. I’m not a big fan of sweets, so I rarely eat any, and if I do I typically just taste what my wife tried. I did try a few though when I was in Vietnam, here’s a post about the panna cotta jelly: http://migrationology.com/2015/04/vietnamese-desserts-saigon/ I also tried a couple soupy coconut milk based desserts as well. I love fruit too!

        Thank you very much for reading this post!

  • Ashley

    5 years ago

    This meals looks delicious! I tried grilled shrimp skewers and scallops with peanuts and scallions when I was in HCMC, and they were both amazing! It is still one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Ashley, oh great to hear you tried a similar dish when you were here. I bet the shrimp with that seasoning would have been really good too.

  • Renuka

    5 years ago

    Amazing, just too amazing! Vietnam looks like a food heaven.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you Renuka, you’re definitely right about that.

  • LeeZ

    5 years ago

    the mud snail is also popular in Malaysia… you should try them (cooked a bit differently) too when you come and visit Malaysia again.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing Lee, I’d love to taste them in Malaysia next visit.

  • Suvro

    5 years ago

    Beef 7 ways – Bo 7 Mon (without the accents) – see http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2010/01/thien-an-bo-bay-mon-in-rosemead-get-your-sevencourse-allbeef-dinner-fix.html

    That “ốc tỏi” looks like conch to me – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conch

  • JohnF

    5 years ago

    Heya Mark!

    Did you get to try Beef seven ways while you were there? I hear it’s the BOMB. Anyhow, good post like always.

    I may be moving to Thailand! I’m excited! I want to live in the NorthEast, away from the “Party” cities. I have a village I’ve got my eye on. Love to meet up with you, take you out for a good meal.

    Thanks again for the great media.

    John

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi John, good to hear from you. No, I wasn’t able to try the beef seven ways when I was in Saigon. Do you know the name of that dish in Vietnamese? Sounds amazing. Glad that you might be moving to Thailand, would be great to meet up with you, let me know.

      • JOhnF

        5 years ago

        I’ll let you know! 🙂

        You and I have the same background in the field as kids. I’ve been a lot of places, but not Thailand. I’m excited!

        There is a Beef seven ways restaurant in Houston. I also saw a travel doc awhile back with it there. Not sure about the Viet name for it! Haha!

        John

  • Emiko

    5 years ago

    I’ve had a few snails, but I’ve never been able to get over the texture. I was just in Morocco, but couldn’t get myself excited enough to try the boiled snails sold on all the street corners. However, the preparation in Vietnam looks amazing, both aesthetically and appetizing.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Emiko, thanks for reading this post. That’s alright, no problem about that, snails definitely have a unique texture. Mmmm, would love to try the Moroccan variation as well.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    5 years ago

    Yum! During our three months living in HCMC, we ate more than our fair share of snail/mollusk meals and they never disappointed. I’ve never seen the peanut & scallop combination anywhere else, but you’re right that it really is excellent. I also loved how there were so many different types of snails and they all had slightly different flavors. One of our favorites that we discovered was a huge snail that the cook chopped up and sautéed with chilis, garlic, butter and morning glory, before placing it back in the shell. It was so good that even though my husband & I could easily share one order, we would often order two so we didn’t have to share! 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Steph, oh cool, thank you for sharing, and glad you loved the sea snails in Vietnam as well. That chopped up, cooked, and filled back in shell dish, sounds delicious!