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Super snails

Txstreet_1

Tu Xuong Street in District 3 is a narrow strip often used during rush hour to avoid the clogged junctions of Saigon's over-motorbiked streets. I originally blogged this piece from Quan An Thien An, at 6A Tu Xuong for a Moveable Feast feature at The Food Section. Thien An is a half-covered, open air joint. The al fresco section has a retractable blue canopy. The kitchen area is hidden behind a flimsy partition and lines the entire length of one side of the restaurant. Plastic chairs, rickety fans, pot plants and naff paintings add bags more boom to the aesthetic bomb, but bad looks don't always mean shoddy nosh. Not in Vietnam.

Tafront

There's an extensive, budget friendly English/Vietnamese menu with shrimp, crab, eel, frog, beef, squid and fish dishes. There are four house specialties; Chim se se nuong moi (Special plain grilled sparrows), Chao luon dua xanh (Eel green bean porridge), Chao ca rau dang (Fish porridge with rau dang) and Oc len xao dua (Braised "Len Len" snails with coconut milk). I have no idea what a "Len Len" snail is, but I do like my snails and so this is the dish I plump for. A bell rings and the food appears from a small serving hatch.

Txoc2

No less than six pairs of eyes bear down on me wondering whether the clueless white guy knows what to do next. He doesn't. I try, but without the usual 'snail-picking device' I'm floundering. One of my watchers takes pity and shows me the way. It turns out the trick is to suck both ends. The pointed tip of each snail is already broken off for you. You suck this end first to dislodge the snail. Follow this up with a hard suck on the wide end and the small rubbery gem should pop straight into your mouth. Simple. Well, not quite. It's messy, it's noisy and it's embarrassing to fluff your lines in front of an audience. However, it's worth the labour intensive scoff-out because this is an excellent snail dish.

Tasnails

The sweetened coconut milk is mixed with lemon grass, chopped Rau ram (a spicy Vietnamese mint-like herb) and a little chili. I'm a big snail fan, but let's face it - snails are bland. Fortunately, the sweet, hot coconut sauce at Thien An gives the grunt these snazzy mollusc wannabes need. It's a fabulous find and I'll definitely be back for more. 30,000VD. Previously: also blogged up the bittet at Thien An. View the business card.

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Comments

Hi Noodlepie,

Looks interesting. The only snail dish I see here is bun oc. Haven't tried it yet, but I am curious to see what type of snails are used.

From your description here, I'm assuming that the snails won't taste like anything, and that the taste would come from the soup itself.

i love these snails... these are called balitong here in malaysia and normally fried with spicy sauces.

That's right Reid, taste of very little, but have an interesting texture. The French do them well with butter, garlic and a dipping sauce, can't remember what exactly, but I had it in the summer and it was great. Jasmine, excuse my ignorance, but are they deshelled before frying? Would remove the hassle, but also a smidgen of the fun.

I love this snail dish too, but $30000/dish, a little pricy? I'm sure I can find cheaper price at a local market when I'm coming back to VN this March...

here i sit trying to imagine a white man eating those snails. hahahahahaha. what i wouldn't do to be one of the witnesses.

i grew up in sai gon and that dish was called oc len kho dua. i don't remember those snails looking so big though.

you're the greatest, pieman!

In the event that Jasmine doesn't revert, no they're not de-shelled. The kitchen leaves all that hard work to the diners. But then again, half the fun is in the sucking action.

Tiz iz differant frum escargot, wee?

haha, that was really funny, pieman! I had a good laugh. Guess it's in Asia that we get to eat all these exotic foods in unusual ways. Sucking on snails! That was most unbecoming of you, monsieur homme de pâté en croûte. :)

Linda - you can get snails way cheaper elsewhere, although I'm not sure how much of a regular on the markets this one is. I can't remember seeing coconut sauce snails anywhere on Ben Thanh for a start. There is a 'mollusc' stall though.

Thuy - thx for dropping by. 'The Greatest' moi?? Toi khong biet.

Fats - your fatness is, as ever, appreciated.

Julia - I probably made it sound more of a hassle and made it more of a hassle, than it really is. It's a fabulous dish. I'm definitely gonna be looking for more snail dishes around Saigon. I do occasionally cook different kinds of snails at home as appetizers, normally steamed with lemongrass etc. :)0=|

This is the best blog ever about Vietnamese food. As Vnese, we often forget how luck we are having such a wonderful, fine cuisine culture. You rock, man. Love your blog. Number 1 fan. Keep on rocking xoxoxo

i am a snail farmer. i farm Achachatina Marginata ( african giants) in Nigeria. if you so wish i can come and teach you hw to farm this snails and use it in your dishes. it is the biggest and largest snail in the world. if you are nterested lets get to business.
Hope to hear from you.

hello;-)I have a snail farm in Bulgaria and i am looking for a custommers for my production

Hi,

I would like to get more informations on snail farming.

Pls advice

Thx

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