Tuesday, 15/08/2017 14:45

Sài Gòn snails winging their way to Hà Nội

Mouth-watering: A plate of Bong snails fried with tamarind sauce.
Viet Nam News

by Ha Nguyen

Nguyen Thi Phuong  and her friends were invited to a party at the newly opened restaurant of Mon Ngon Sai Thanh last week.

Phuong, a Quang Ninh native, said they were keen on trying something different.

When she saw the snails section on the menu, Phuong remembered the time she enjoyed the famous boiled and steamed snails cooked with lemon leaves and citronella on Luong Van Can Street in Ha Noi’s Old Quarter.

“I can never forget the fragrance and taste of the dish, particularly its nuoc cham (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 Phuong and her friends had never tried snail dishes from erstwhile Sai Gon, although they’d heard others praise them. So when they saw dishes like oc Bong xao me (Bong snail fried with tamarind sauce) and oc ca na xao bo cay (Ca Na snail fried with peppery butter) on the menu, they just had to try them.

Soft and crisp: Ca Na snails fried with peppery butter.

When the oc bong xao me was brought to the table, “my mouth watered. The bong 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, Phuong said.

The waiter told Phuong that for the next dish, she could enjoy the entire process from choosing the snails to cooking. After the Ca 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 Quan An Ngon Restaurant in Ha Noi.

The cook prepared the dish so well that the snail tasted sweet and fresh, Phuong said, adding that yellow peppery butter left in the plate made for an excellent sauce to dip bread in. 

Tran Ba Dung, a chef at the Quan An Ngon Restaurant on Phan Boi Chau Street in Ha Noi, said, “Compared with northern snails like oc mit, the ones from Sai Gon are called queen of the snails.”

The restaurant chain gets its snails flown everyday from well known farms in the south, he added.

Dung said the chain has set up stands of Oc Sai Gon (Sai Gon snails) at its branch on 18 Phan Boi Chau Street as well as Mon Ngon Sai Thanh (at 8, Da Tuong Street). — VNS

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