Natalia Martinez gets her hands messy in District 4’s Vinh Khanh Street. Fancy some snails anyone? Photos by Kyle Phanroy

  

Food and its various traditions are quite simply a big part of Vietnamese culture. Yet its not just one type of cuisine we’re talking about here. There are many. And among all those different cuisines, the world of snails and shellfish is one of the best known. It’s certainly one of the most enjoyable.

 

Go Oc or Go Home

 

The national craving for oc or shellsh dates back centuries. On the menu of many a streetside joint you will nd innite types of oc: snails, scallops, clams, oysters and mussels as well as crab, swimming crab, shrimp and in fact almost as many crustaceans as you can think of. They come from two different sources: the East Sea and fresh water — rivers, lakes and even rice paddies. 

 

The map of Saigon offers a few popular streets where you can have some oc fun. One of the favourites is Vinh Khanh. As you venture down this long street you’ll see a vibrant scene: motorbikes driving around, street food vendors, karaoke singers, fire-eaters.

 

If you like oc you’re in luck — both sides are crowded with ocspecialists. If you want to ease yourself into this culture gradually, look for crowded places. The most famous and renowned eatery in this category is Oc Oanh. Get ready to experience a whole oc party to the rhythm of mot-haiba-vo! Because this tapas-like adventure wouldn’t be what it is if there wasn’t beer involved. The perfect ingredient for a damn good evening. 

It’s Time to Hold the Beer and Order

 

Now it’s time for the hard part: what to order. You’ll typically have more than 20 different options to choose from, cooked in various styles and served with an assortment of sauces. But the good news is that you will need a lot of them to get full. And even better news — it’s cheap. As you dig into snails, crack some shells, drink some icy beer and wait for more food to come, random vendors will offer other snacks to accompany the feast — peanuts, boiled quail eggs and sour mango.

 

The Alternative

 

If you aren’t into oc and you are looking for some other options, try the grill-it-yourself barbecue at Quan BBQ Lua. Here you can enjoy any kind of meat, cooked in many different styles. Or you can go for something different and try some grilled frog dipped in green chilli sauce. 

 

Oc Oanh is open daily until 11pm, 534 Vinh Khanh, Q4, Ho Chi Minh City. Quan BBQ Lua is open daily until midnight, 33 Vinh Khanh, Q4, Ho Chi Minh City

 


 

Oc Recommendations


— OC HUONG RAN MUOI OT (fried sea snails with salt and chilli)

 

— SO DIEP NUONG MO HANH (grilled scallops with spring onions and peanuts)

 

— CUA OT VA MUOI (grilled crab with salt and chilli)

 

— NGHEU HAP SA (clams steamed in lemongrass and chilli)

 

Natalia Martinez

Natalia Martínez is a Spanish girl who moved to Vietnam after graduating in journalism. Having worked for Spain's premier radio station, she is now a freelance journalist and teaches English and Spanish in Ho Chi Minh City. Despite being so busy, she still finds time to share silly stories on her blog desdevietngon.wordpress.com and eat ridiculous amounts of cheese.

Website: https://desdevietngon.wordpress.com/

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