Hong Tran

“This is the type of dish that made me fall in love with Vietnam’s snail restaurants,” says writer Matt Gross. “It’s got everything that I associate with the best of Vietnamese food: fresh shellfish, pungent scallions, and meaty peanuts. When I learned it was all bound together by oyster sauce, I was ready to dance with joy—but actually, I was too busy eating to get up from my small plastic stool.” In Vietnam, huge pen shell clams feature in this dish. Pen shells are not widely available in the U.S., but the effect is just as good with cherrystone clams, in-shell scallops, or mussels. Finely chopped and combined with a pungent mix of herbs, crispy fried shallots, and oyster sauce, then returned to their shells and grilled until bubbling, they’re a delicious appetizer—especially when paired with a cold lager.