Viet Nam News
by Hà Nguyễn
Nguyễn Thị Phượng and her friends were invited to a party at the newly opened restaurant of Món Ngon Sài Thành last week.
Phượng, a Quảng Ninh native, said they were keen on trying something different.
When she saw the snails section on the menu, Phượng remembered the time she enjoyed the famous boiled and steamed snails cooked with lemon leaves and citronella on Lương Văn Can Street in Hà Nội’s Old Quarter.
“I can never forget the fragrance and taste of the dish, particularly its nước chấm (dipping sauce) with ginger, chili and garlic.
“These ingredients help warm up the body, my herbalist father told me. He said the warmth was needed because the snail was cold, although it is nutritious and full of protein, it could cause stomach aches, dyspepsia or diarrhea.”
But Phượng and her friends had never tried snail dishes from erstwhile Sài Gòn, although they’d heard others praise them. So when they saw dishes like ốc Bông xào me (Bông snail fried with tamarind sauce) and ốc cà na xào bơ cay (Cà Na snail fried with peppery butter) on the menu, they just had to try them.
Soft and crisp: Cà Na snails fried with peppery butter.
When the ốc bông xào me was brought to the table, “my mouth watered. The bông snails were covered with a red and brown tamarind sauce and coconut juliennes. It was topped with red chilli slices and fragrant knotweed.”
The dish also tasted as good as it looked, particularly when it was dipped in a small bowl with a mixture of salt, pepper, lemon and ground chili, Phượng said.
The waiter told Phượng that for the next dish, she could enjoy the entire process from choosing the snails to cooking. After the Cà Na snails were chosen, the cooker them and let it dry for several minutes. Then he fried the snails in French butter, the process giving off a highly appetising aroma.
Got escargots: An assortment of snail dishes served at the Quán Ăn Ngon Restaurant in Ha Noi.
The cook prepared the dish so well that the snail tasted sweet and fresh, Phượng said, adding that yellow peppery butter left in the plate made for an excellent sauce to dip bread in.
Trần Bá Dũng, a chef at the Quán Ăn Ngon Restaurant on Phan Bội Châu Street in Hà Nội, said, “Compared with northern snails like ốc mít, the ones from Sài Gòn are called queen of the snails.”
The restaurant chain gets its snails flown everyday from well known farms in the south, he added.
Dũng said the chain has set up stands of Ốc Sài Gòn (Sài Gòn snails) at its branch on 18 Phan Bội Châu Street as well as Món Ngon Sài Thành (at 8, Dã Tượng Street). — VNS