Like many others all over the world, the Vietnamese cook snails for meal. The food doesn’t come cheap for the city dweller but in the countryside it is. They get the snails from their rice fields. Whoever included this dish in their kitchen must have been an intelligent person with a good sense of economics. The farmer would get both rice – the staple food, and mineral (iron, magnesium, potassium) and vitamin B12 rich snails from the same field. The meal, thus, is complete.
In Hanoi they get a kilo of live snails for about an equivalent of 3 USD and the final eatable product turns out to be around 200 grams. Effectively that’s 15 USD, a costly deal.
I happened to visit a kitchen for a first hand review of the preparation. A good amount of work and effort goes into cleaning the raw material before the delicacy reached the dining table. Wonder how many wayside eateries or shacks would be doing it that minutely. Here’s the procedure and a few pictures straight from the master chef’s kitchen.
Boil them for about 15 minutes and keep removing the floating scum. This will remove all the stickiness and accumulated waste. They say the variety of snails found in the fields is not sticky. It has solid meat.
For a raw hand his is time consuming part but an experienced cook knows the trick. Shell is hard and has to be cut at the rounded end. That quickly gets the meat out.
This is the tough but very important task. You have got to identify the digestive track and remove it completely as waste.
The final dish
This typical Vietnamese preparation is called ‘Bun Oc’. Bun (rice noodles) Oc (snail). The snail meat is light fried and then mixed with noodles and herbs and shoots (like green onion, red shiso - veggies) and vinegar before serving.
(March 2017, with input from the Master Chef)