The system of rivers and channels in Vietnam has a total length of over 41,900 km. The country has a long coast of 3,444 km. Mother Nature gives Vietnam more than 11,000 animal species, including a large number of edible water animals. Coming to Vietnam, visitors have chances to enjoy lots of delicious and healthy foods including freshwater and seawater shrimps, crabs, fishes, shellfishes, snails and many others. Vietnamese people have caught, farmed snails and created hundreds of amazing snail recipes. The top snails in Vietnam include Sweet snail, Nail snail Garlic snail, Mud creeper, Melo melo, Common periwinkle, Flower snail, Canarium erythrinum, Red lip nerite snail, Moon snail.
Read more about Top Shellfish Dishes in Vietnam.
Sweet snail (Ốc hương)
Babylonia areolata is a species of sea snail, having trumpet-shaped shell, brown spots, a maximum length of 10 cm and a weight of 60 grams. In the Vietnamese language, it is called Ốc hương which literally means Sweet snail because of the great smells of the uncooked and cooked snails. It is known as the Queen of snails in Vietnam thanks to not only the smell but also the great taste, many nutrients and health benefits. The sweet snail meat is high in calcium, vitamin B, protein, fat, iron, vitamin A, C, B2, PP. It does not contain cholesterol so that it is good for dieters, brain, heart health, digestion.
There are many methods of cooking Sweet snail: steaming with lemongrass and/or chili, boiling with lemongrass and/or chili; stir-frying with butter, sautee, garlic, tamarind sauce, salted duck egg yolk, coconut milk; toasting with chili and salt, grilling with butter, garlic, pepper, chili and salt, green onion oil.
In comparison to other snails in Vietnam, Sweet snail is easier to eat for foreigners because its flesh is not too tender but not too chewy and the smell is nice.
Nail snail (Ốc móng tay)
Solenidae is commonly called Razor clam in English because its shell looks like a razor. In Vietnam, this snail is named after the shapes of its shell and its flesh. Vietnamese people call this snail Ốc móng tay, which literally means Nail snail because its shell look like a long nail. It is also called Ốc ngón tay (Finger snail) or Ốc mã đao (Sword snail).
Nail snail is about 10 cm long and 2 cm wide. The flesh is tender and chewy at the same time and has a sweet taste. Its flesh is rich in protein, minerals such as iron, calcium and vitamins such as B12, Omega-3 fatty acids.
Razor clam is used to cook lots of delicious dishes, especially razor clam stir fries. They usually stir-fry Nail snail with sautee, butter, tamarind sauce, garlic, chili, noodles, morning glory. This snail is a good choice for both Vietnamese people and foreigners at snail restaurants and stalls. Chefs can remove the shells before cooking or cook both shell and flesh together.
Garlic snail (Ốc tỏi)
Oxychilus alliarius is commonly called Garlic snail or Ốc tỏi thanks to its garlic shaped shell. It is many times bigger than Sweet snail, the smooth, shiny and weakly reddish to greenish brown shell is about 4 cm x 6 cm.
The meat of Garlic snail is high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, C, B2, PP. Garlic snail has a crunchy head and tender tail so that its flesh is better to be stir-fried with butter, grilled with peppers, stir-fried with noodles. Because the garlic snail is rather big, they can cut the flesh into small pieces, then cook.
Mud creeper (Ốc len)
Cerithidea obtusa is called Mud creeper in English and Ốc len in Vietnamese. Its shell is about 4 cm long, has a brown color and white bizarres.
The flesh is red and turns green when cooked. Its head is a little crunchy and chewy and other parts are very tender. The flesh contains many amino acids, calcium and phosphorus. It is good for your skin and joints.
The best dishes from Mud creepers include Stir-fried mud creeper with lemongrass and chili, Stir-fried mud creeper with coconut milk. The greasy, sweet and salty coconut milk sauce goes well with the flesh of Mud creeper. Chef assistants usually create apex holes in snail shells so that diners removing the snail meat from the shells and eating the meat by sucking the outer lips easily.
Melo melo (Ốc giác)
In Vietnam, Melo melo was called King snail thanks to its large size. It can be as big as your hand. In some regions of the country, they call it Ốc gàu, Ốc gáo (Water ladle snail) or Ốc chóa đèn (Lampshade snail) because its shell looks like a water ladle or a lampshade. One of the interesting things about this snail is that it can bear valuable pearls used to make jewelry.
Similar to Garlic snail, the crunchy meat of Melo melo is usually removed from the shells, cut into small pieces before cooking. Vietnamese people boil, grill Melo melo’s meat, make salads, cook congees, stir-fries, curried dishes, from Melo melo flesh. They can stir-fry the snail meat with tamarind sauce, sautee, butter, morning glory, noodles, etc.
Common periwinkle (Ốc mỡ)
Vietnamese people call Littorina littorea Ốc mỡ which literally means Fat snail. It is smaller than other popular snails in the country. The diameter of the shell is less than 4 cm. The shell is white and brown, smooth and shiny.
Common periwinkle is one of the top snails in Vietnam thanks to health benefits, good taste and reasonable price. It is a favorite ingredient to cook stir-fries with different spices, sauces and vegetables. Stir-fried periwinkle with tamarind sauce, butter, sautee, garlic, lemongrass and chili, Vietnamese mint, morning glory are the most popular dishes from Ốc mỡ.
Flower snail (Ốc bông)
Vietnamese people call the small nail Ốc bông (Flower snail) because brown spots on its shell look like beautiful flowers. It is as small as Littorina littorea. They usually stir-fry Flower snail with butter, garlic, sautee, salted duck egg yolk or steam the snail with lemongrass.
Canarium erythrinum (Ốc cà na)
Canarium erythrinum’s shell looks like a Cà na (Elaeocarpus hygrophilus fruit) so that it is named after this fruit. However, this snail is smaller than Ca na fruit, it is about 3-4 cm long. Steamed Oc ca na with lemongrass, Stir-fried Oc ca na with butter and garlic, Toasted/Stir-fried Oc ca na with salt and chili are great dishes from Canarium erythrinum.
Red lip nerite snail (Ốc dừa)
Red lip nerite snail (Ốc dừa, Coconut snail, Nipa palm snail) lives dead roots of nipa palms in the rivers. This kind of snail is one of the smallest snails, it is in brown color. It is better to steam Red lip nerite snail with lemongrass, stir-fry it with garlic, butter and corn, use it to cook congee.
Moon snail (Ốc mặt trăng)
Naticidae is named Moon snail or Pearl eye snail because it has a beautiful half-moon shaped shell opening (aperture). It has a medium size. In English, the snail is known by the common name “sand collar” because of their resemblance to an old-fashioned removable shirt collar.
Boiled moon snail is served with Ginger fish sauce dip, Stir-fried moon snail with lemongrass and chili is also a tasty dish. It has been told that the meat of Moon snail is not less delicious than the flesh of Sweet snail – the Queen of snails in Vietnam.
What to know before eating Top Snails in Vietnam?
Sweet snail is the most favorite snail of foreigners in Vietnam. It is not only the easiest snail to eat but also good food for digestion and health. It is the most expensive snail among the mentioned snails.
Many foreigners prefer Grilled snails to Snail stir-fries.
Snail dishes are eaten by toothpicks or small forks.
Diner should eat snails with Vietnamese mint which is good for digestion.
The mix of salt, ground black pepper, kumquat/lime juice is the most popular dip for snails. Other dips include fish sauce dip; mix of chili and salt; mix of chili, salt and lime leaves.
Most of the Vietnamese snail restaurants open in the evening because Vietnamese people usually eat snail dishes at night.