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More on periwinkles (ốc gạo)

Lamp wrote about how excited he was when he saw fresh periwinkles at Monahan’s Seafood, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw bags and bags of fresh periwinkles at Đại Thành supermarket in San Jose. Not wanting to repeat the coconut milk flavor that Lamp used in his post, I decided to try out other flavors: once with tamarind and the other with lemongrass, ginger & lime leaf.

For tamarind, I strongly prefer the tamarind block over all the other forms of tamarind (powder, paste, liquid, etc.). I guess I am just old-school.

Tamarind block

A chunk of tamarind is put in hot water until it’s soft and can be broken apart. It can also be boiled to speed up the process. This is what it looks like after it’s mixed well with water:

Tamarind mixed with water

c xào me (tamarind periwinkles): Pass tamarind water through a sieve to strain out seeds. Season with fish sauce and sugar to taste. Stir fry garlic slices until they are fragrant, then add periwinkles and stir for 1-2 minute. Add tamarind water, stir and cook for another 6-7 minutes. Don’t cook periwinkles for too long because the meat will shrivel up and lose flavor. The periwinkles can be dipped in the same tamarind sauce when served.

Ốc hấp sả (lemongrass-steamed periwinkles): Another method I tried was to steam periwinkles with lemongrass, ginger & lime leaf. Lemongrass is cut into thin slices or mined. Ginger and lime leaf are cut into very thin strips. Garlic is minced. Fry garlic, lemongrass and ginger until fragrant, then add periwinkles and stir for 2 minutes. Then add fish sauce and a pinch of sugar and stir for 3 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

Cháo ốc (periwinkle porridge): I had quite a bit of leftover lemongrass-steamed periwinkles last time (due to the over-abundance of food served at dinner, not because of the quality of this dish) and decided to make periwinkle porridge. Porridge is made the regular way (boil rice in a lot of water until rice softens and expands), then add periwinkle meat & rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) and cook for 5 minutes. Porridge is served hot with additional rau răm for garnish.

Lemongrass-steamed periwinkle meat

The porridge is hard to make in the sense that you’ll have to spend time digging out all the periwinkle meat while fighting the urge to eat it right away. I probably can only make this porridge with leftover periwinkles. However, this porridge is very delicious, as it’s hot and soupy and has an amazing texture that is a mix of crunchiness (periwinkle heads) and softness (periwinkle bodies). Even though the periwinkles & rau răm are only added to the porridge at the end, it’s still enough for the flavors of periwinkles, lemongrass, lime leaf & rau răm to permeate the soup and blend together. I’d definitely make this again because the delayed gratification is definitely worth it.


Ốc xào nước dừa (Periwinkles with chilli lemongrass and coconut)

Periwinkle sauteed with lemongrass chilli and coconut milk

Saw fresh periwinkles at Monahan’s Seafood and the only question was how much should I get.

Ốc xào nước dừa is a fixture on both the Vietnamese street food and drinking food scenes. In drinking establishments (quán nhậu), there’s a plethora of food smells – grilled food, smoke and spices and ốc xào nước dừa is just one of the choices. However out on the fringes of Vietnamese markets where the hawkers’ stalls are, the scent of ốc xào nước dừa is prominent and irresistable. The cloud of rich coconut, clean lemongrass and sharp chilli announces that one’s errands are past, jostling and bargaining done with. Time for a well deserved reward.

Periwinkles (fresh, not frozen) were soaked in chilli water to make them give up grits. They were then sauteed with garlic, chilli, and lemongrass. Coconut milk was added towards the end and seasoned to taste with nước mắm (fish sauce) and more chilli. Served with rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) (can also be added while sauteeing) and beer or wine. I had some Syrah this time.