Do you like to “nhậu” — aka do you like to drink beer and eat yummy food with friends and families? If that’s a yes, then gather up your chickas and fellas for a festive, adventurous, and cheap seafood meal. If you didn’t know already, Vietnamese people love love love their seafood! You won’t meet one Vietnamese person who doesn’t love at least one type of seafood like shrimp, crawfish, crabs, clams, lobsters — If you do, then they’re definitely the shunned outliers, haha. So are you ready to start popping beer bottles and to stuff your face with food?
Quán Ốc Xuân Hón in Ho Chi Minh City: Map
This restaurant specializes in seafood only and it’s what I would call “nhậu” food — drinking food. Little plates of finger food for you to nibble on while you wash it down with thirst-quenching Saigon beer.
They offers a wide selections of different clams and snails and what we ordered below is probably only half of what they have.
Ok, lets start off easy.
- Clams cooked in lemongrass broth — It’s tangy and salty with a good kick from the spices. The soup was so good that we used the french bread provided to soak up the broth after we finished with the clams.
- Razor clams sautéed with water spinach and garlic. This dish is so simple, yet the flavors are out of this world. Sometimes the most simple food can provide the most savory flavors.
- Blood clams in tamarind sauce. Now before you scroll past this dish because of the name, the “blood” comes from the red liquid from inside the clams. However, it doesn’t taste like blood so don’t you worry. Although, the clams are fully cooked, it will not open up like other clams — You have to pry it open with your fingers. A little work for your food doesn’t hurt. The thick tamarind sauce is sour, salty, and sweet which elevates the clams to the next level.
- Fire roasted Fur clams topped with green onion infused oil and chopped peanuts. Using the shells as a spoon, dip the clam in fish sauce and, in one bite, slurp the fish sauce along with the clams and all its contents. Boom! Food bomb just exploded in your mouth.
- Salt and pepper crab claws. We also ordered crab claws in tamarind sauce. Both are delicious and pair well with Bia Saigon (Saigon beer).
Disclaimer: Vietnamese people also love their snails.
You’re probably yelling in your head right now saying, “SNAILS?!?! You’re crazy Linh, if you want me to eat these slugs!” Trust me, I was as grossed out too, but they’re not the same snails that you tortured with salt when you were younger because you were curious, well, mostly bored. They’re sea snails so they are not slimy, as a matter of fact, they don’t really have any taste. The flavor comes from the sauce they’re cooked in.
- Babylonia (a type of sea snail) in lemongrass.
- Fire roasted Velvet Snails, Ốc Nhung, (direct translation — I couldn’t find the common name for this one). This one is simple, grilled over open fire and you use the provided tiny forks to pull them out. You can dip this in fish sauce or any left over sauces from other previous dishes. I really like the thick tamarind sauce so I dipped mine in that.
- Mud snails in coconut milk. Due to the fact the snails grow in muddy areas and is a bit slimy, crafty Vietnamese chefs know how to balance that out with robust and fragrant coconut broth. The broth is creamy, rich, and a little bit spicy. I literally just drink the soup that the snails are cooked in because it’s so delicious!
We ordered 3-4 servings per dish to feed 12 people so about 30 dishes with over 10 bottles of beer and the bill came out to be ~$55 USD. Say what?! Where can you feed this number of people with seafood and the bill comes below $60 USD? Only in Vietnam and I love it!