Tran Cao Van, Hoi An
If you’re looking for the carnage and buzz of a great spit and sawdust dining hall, the kind of place the cool kids go to hang out with friends on a night off, where food, fun and conversation sit harmoniously amid debris-laden floors and plastic tables wilting under the weight of plates, bottles and glasses, then heading out in Hoi An for some oc hut, a Da Nang speciality of fiery hot freshwater snail tapas, should do the trick.
Down a small alley, just after bia hoi joint Cafe 43 on Tran Cao Van, is the kitchen of Hoi An’s oc hut pioneer, Madame Ly. From early afternoon Ly prepares huge vats of freshwater snails in a bubbling cauldron of vinegar and water to remove all the grit before marinating them in an old Da Nang recipe of chillies, lemongrass, ginger and fish sauce. At the strike of 14:00, Ly swings open her doors and positions a glass cabinet display of buckets bursting with piles of sucking snails. Groups of 20-somethings pull up stools, crack open beers for the boys and energy drinks for the girls and wait while Ly fires up her wok for a final escargot flash-fry.
Sucking snails is the rough translation of oc hut and it exactly describes the preferred technique for enjoying every last bit of flavour explosion on your plate. It’s a tricky (okay, messy) task and one that at first doesn’t always win you the reward of the tasty, chewy flesh nestled within. To do it, place your lips around the opening and suck out the snail meat. If this doesn’t produce results, gently suck the smaller end and try again. If this fails, grab a toothpick and pluck the little sucker out.
A plate of oc hut at Madame Ly’s will set you back around 30,000 VND and a warm can of La Rue, 10,000 VND. Other than Madame Ly’s, the best oc hut stalls in Hoi An are all located in a tight cluster near the traffic lights at the junction where Ly Thuong Kiet meets Hai Ba Trung Street. Vendors open in the afternoon and stay open until the early evening.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 24th July, 2014.