Whether you are local people or new-comer, you can not miss a special dish in Saigon which is called snail dish. Snail dish can be listed as snack or Saigon speciality.
At weekends, Can Thanh town becomes more crowded due to people flocking to tourist spots. The town is also trading center where seafood is delivered to Can Gio wholesale market and Hang Duong seafood market. From 3 pm, Can Thanh fishing port becomes busy and crowded with trading activities.
There are 3 types of snails namely brackish water snail, saltwater snail and freshwater snail. They are main source of income for local people. Snails are mainly caught in the sea, some are cultivated.
We had chance to see thousands of local people bringing torch to catch snail on a beach which is 2-3 kilometers long.
Mrs Kim Thanh, a snail gathering person said “ We wait until the sea currents move down. We usually catch about 20 kilograms of snails each day, sometimes the amount of snails could be up to 200 kilograms. The beach 30/4 can supply several tons of snails each day.”
Mr Phan Van Hieu said “ On an average working day, a family with 2-3 people can catch 5-7 kilograms of snails and earn 100-200 thousand dong. They will sell snails to wholesaler or sell snails themselves”
Mr Chin Liem, head of Hang Duong market said “ The seafood market includes 40 stands whose main goods are snails. The greatest obstacle of seafood industry lies in delivery which must be fast and able to keep snails undamaged”
Natural snails are becoming rare which interferes catching activity.
At night, we gathered at Binh Dien wholesale market. Within a few hours, goods from Can Gio are transported here. Clam type 1 is 25-27 thousand dong per kilogram in Can Gio market and 30-35 thousand dong in Binh Dien market. Oyster is 16 thousand dong per kilogram in Can Gio market and 20-25 thousand dong in Binh Dien market.
Mr Nguyen Dang Phu, vice head of Binh Dien market said “ Binh Dien market has 442 seafood stands in total, supplying 1000 tons of seafood including 200 tons of snails, clams and oysters on average for city dwellers. There is competition between the market’s seafood and seafood from Northern area with seafood being half as cheap as the seafood here”
From midnight to 3 am, clams and snails are transported to the market. They are put in bag of 100-120 kilograms then people will classify them into different types.
Within a few hours, a great number of clams, snails and oysters from Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Vung Tau, Ca Mau, Ben Tre… is transported to Binh Dien market. After that, they will be distributed to urban markets before sunrise.
Among Saigon best dishes, Ky Dong snails, Ho Hao Hon fried snails with coconut, Truong Minh Giang spicy snails with butter are the most delicious. Gradually, “snail streets” are set up and snail dish is integrated into menu of seafood restaurant.
Snail streets are very crowded and offer snail dish until 3 am. People irrespective of age, social status and tourists come to enjoy such speciality.
Snails can be boiled, steamed, fried and grilled. The most important step in making snail dish is washing. For example, snails for grilling must be clean and without dust. Snails for frying with coconut must be intact.
Thanh Thai snail street in District No10 has 3 snail restaurants. Each restaurant is about 10 meters long and has several snail tanks. There are 2 snail restaurants on Tran Hung Dao street.
The garden in the tomb of scholar Truong Vinh Ki (Distrit No5) has now become snail garden serving snail dish.
On Vinh Khanh street in District No4, there are hundreds of snail restaurants from Hoang Dieu street to Ton Dan street. These restaurants attract a lot of foreigners come to enjoy snail dish and drink beer from 3 pm to 3 am.
On D2 street and Ung Van Khiem street in Binh Thanh District, there is a new type of snail dish namely snail hotpot with the price of 35-40 thousand dong per person. Snails are grilled using coal stoves and give out tempting fragrant.
There are snail restaurants for officers, too.
Snail dish is preferred as it is healthy. Besides, there is a diversity of snails. Some snails are imported from Taiwan, Thailand and Canada. Additionally, snails are prepared to make different dishes with different tastes such as grilled snails with butter, cheese and snails cooked in wine.
People are increasingly interested in snail dish. As time goes by, other dishes such as spicy insect dish of Thailand and Cambodia are introduced into Saigon and become popular.
A plate of snail is 40-55 thousand dong, depending on the size and type of snail. Red snail and oyster is 30-130 thousand dong.
Mrs Bui Thi Suong, vice president of Saigon Professional Cook Organization said “ snail is a species of krill which is easily be infected with parasites. Therefore, it remains fresh in a very short time. Storing procedure is important. Snails are fresh when their body is still intact and without moss and sand. “
Since its existence, snail dish is favored by Saigon people and tourists. It is considered as one of Saigon specialities and most favorite dish in seafood restaurants.
Whether snail dish is enjoyed in quietness or with noise, it makes you feel sweetness of rivers and saltiness of beaches
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