It’s a warm night. The cheery light from Ốc Vi Hà Nội beckons us inside. There is a plastic table and the iconic tiny stools set up outside. A raucous group of drunk women sit inside. Their table is littered with shells, napkins, half-empty glasses of spiked juice, and assorted condiments.
The time has come for a national, beloved past time of Vietnam – a good night of ăn ốc. That is: snail eating.
We grab a table just inside, next to the huge chalk menu of the snail and seafood offerings.
I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. A huge menu does seem to be the usual modus operandi for restaurants in Southeast Asia so I should have seen it coming.
The selfie of someone who doesn’t know what she’s getting into.
Luckily, we’re offered a menu with pictures. Time to point and hope for the best!
Snails in a chili lime dressing.
Claims in “Thai”-flavored broth.
Snails in a lemongrass broth.
My weapon of choice for attacking those little but intimidating bugs in front of me.
Kelly psyching herself up for the big moment and displaying her “photo face”.
The snails are surprisingly chewy and firm. The smaller snails take quite a lot of effort to extract them from their homes, but we do it ruthlessly.
They’re also a lot bigger than you’d expect.
Mmm, chewy snot morsel.
It is free and the moment is upon us.
Farewell, little snail. We knew you not at all, but may you rest well in snail heaven.
You’re a champion! Greatest of them all. You’re a champion! Standing tall. You’re a champion! And you’ll always be my hero.