Snail delicacies make Hà Nội unforgettable

November 21, 2023 - 08:23
There are many ways to prepare chả ốc, like steamed with lemongrass, wrapped in betel leaves, fried, or steamed in bamboo tubes.

Hoàng Lan

Hanoians have made their home famous worldwide for hundreds of delicacies including tasty dishes made of snails such as chả ốc (snail nuggets).

There are many ways to prepare chả ốc, like steamed with lemongrass, wrapped in betel leaves, deep-fried, or steamed in bamboo tubes.

Overseas Vietnamese Đào Thu Nga from the UK, who recently returned to her home city of Hà Nội, said the capital’s snail delicacies have won over diners including gourmets with their tasty and unique savour.

'Chả ốc' (snail nuggets) make an unforgettable Hà Nội culinary experience. Photo

Nga recalled that in the past when she was a young girl, she and her friends were interested in their favourite ốc luộc (boiled snails) with a dipping sauce of mixed fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lemongrass and fresh chilli; as well as bún ốc (snails with fresh vermicelli soup).

“It is most enjoyable with a bowl of hot vermicelli or hotpot on a winter day,” Nga said.

Later when grown up, Nga said her favourite snail dishes also included snail nuggets.

“I like chả ốc so much for its perfect combination between minced snail, pork paste, and natural spices such as hot chilli, hot pepper, artisan fish sauce and others.

Steamed snail and pork paste in bamboo tubes has become a new culinary trend. Photo

“I enjoy each bite of chả ốc for its crisp snail, tender but firm and fragrant pork paste mixed with these spices,” Nga told Việt Nam News, adding that the dish, although simple and common, still offered diners an unforgettable experience.

Nga said apart from being a delicacy for a party food tray, hotpot, or eaten with rice, chả ốc has become a dear and valuable gift which carries the traditional culture of Vietnamese when presented to friends and relatives.

In addition, Nga also enjoyed snail and pork paste steamed in bamboo tubes (locally known as ốc hấp ống nứa), a new trend. The dish attracts not only youngsters but also adults.

Many foodies are interested in steamed snails with a dipping sauce of garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, lime leaves and chilli. Photo

A snail seller in Hà Nội’s Hồ Tây (West Lake) area, Nguyễn Thị Hanh, said she learned to make the dish from her friend in the northwestern province of Sơn La where ethnic groups such as H’Mông and Thai made the dish since long ago. It has become a favourite dish of many visitors and travellers to the province.

"Snail and pork paste steamed in a bamboo tube better retains its flavour that please foodies," Hanh said, noting that compared with other snail dishes, this delicacy is more impressive for its authenticity: the fresh bamboo tube has its own natural fragrance which mixes with the savour of minced snail and port paste to make the dish tastier.

Ingredients to make snail delicacies include snails, pork paste, dried fragrant mushrooms, onions and hot peppers. Photo

"Chả ốc is a nutritious dish suitable for everyone," Hanh said, adding that apart from being steamed, snail and pork mixture can be cooked in a hotpot, or roasted over charcoal. “You can preserve it in a refrigerator for later use."

While snail dishes are available on many Hà Nội streets, the most tasty ones are around West Lake, a birthplace of the delicacy, she said.

For Nga herself, snail dishes help pull her back to her peaceful childhood, reviving memories of her homeland and traditional tasty dishes. VNS