Cruising the streets of Saigon is what locals do on a daily basis. They’re always on the go with their scooters, mopeds and motorbikes, and chances are that if you’re hungry while cruising you will easily find some sort of street food.
However, the most popular crowd pleasers amongst Saigonese are hotpot, snails and shellfish. The reason is that these particular foods are meant to be shared. The bigger the crowd, the better the conversation and atmosphere. Moreover, the food just seems to taste better.
I am not a huge fan of hotpot, but I am a fan of snails and shellfish. When it comes to local and street seafood, the fresher is always the better. There are many places in the city, but knowing where to go, especially when it comes to these delicacies, is a must.
Deep down a tiny winding alley off Do Quang Dau Street, which is between Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao, you’ll find a small, modest house with no sign, but to those who know it, the place is Oc Dieu – Oc meaning shell and Dieu, the name of the owner.
You know you have arrived when you find a small crowd gathered at some tables in the alley and in their open living room. Bowls full of all sorts of different shellfish line the metal shelves. Then there is a charcoal burner and grill serving up some of the coolest shellfish dishes in town.
I highly recommend calling ahead of time to reserve a table for the snails and shellfish. Here is what my group ordered:
Oc Huong (ivory/flower snail shell) pan-fried with chilli, salt and pepper
Oc Toi (large glass snail) grilled with fish sauce, oil, green onions and roasted peanuts
Oc Ca Na (a roasted type of snail) floating in a deep buttery sauce with a side of banh mi to dip and soak up the sauce
So Diep (scallops) grilled with green onions
Hao (oyster) grilled with cheese
Steamed So Long (ark clams)
Oc Nhung (I’m not sure what this is called in English, but it is one of my favourites) grilled with fish sauce.
Standard steamed clams with lemongrass and garlic
All snails and shellfish are served with sides of marinated fish sauce, salt, pepper, lemon and chillies.
26/50/52 Do Quang Dau, D1
12pm – 5pm (or until sold out)
Tel 09 092 281 63
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.