Travel Through Food: Clams in Lemongrass Broth/Con Nghêu Hấp Recipe (Vietnam)

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth
When people think of Vietnamese cuisine, images of veggies always seem to spring to mind. Perhaps it’s because the Vietnamese love their food light and balanced: a mix of meat, vegetables, herbs; all sorts of colors and flavors; sweet, salty, a little spicy, a touch of sourness, always vibrant. Perhaps it’s because when you sit down to a pho or bun cha restaurant, a basket full of greens and herbs awaits you. Perhaps it’s because when you split open your banh mi, there’s a bunch of veg and my favorite, cilantro (cue to the haters: collective “yuuuck!”). But there is much more to Vietnamese food than this.

In my last visit to Ho Chi Minh, I discovered a really interesting food district when I joined a motorcycle food tour. District 4 houses a large area filled with quán ốc restaurantseateries specializing in snails and seafood. When you get there, you will be overwhelmed with the seemingly endless rows of quán ốcs. Locals sit on low stools and enjoy steaming bowls of soups, platters of snail, and trays of shellfish with ice-cold beers, unwinding after a long workday. You can’t find this in the main touristy area around Ben Thanh!

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth
So my tour guide and new friend, Hoàng, took me to his quán ốc of choice, and there, he made me try tons of food, including one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in Vietnam. Forgive me though, but it’s not a snail dish. They are clams—cooked simply in a lemongrass and ginger broth that was so hearty and tasty, I almost finished the entire pot. OMG, you’ve got to believe me. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to book a flight to Saigon!

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth
But obviously, we can’t at the moment—so we’re trying to replicate this dish today in this edition of #TravelThroughFood. This series, as you probably know if you saw my Pad Krao Pao post, will contain all recipes of my favorite dishes from different places I have travelled to. Yes, we will recreate delicious things we have eaten from our travels!

Now, how does the intro about veggies relate to this incredibly easy recipe? Well, there’s hardly any vegetable in this dish! Haha! This dish, called con nghêu hấp in Vietnam, goes well with beer—perhaps I can woo the booze-loving, vegetable-hating, Vietnamese-food-snubbing foodies with this one? And you have to make that dipping sauce, it’s simply not complete without it.

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth

Vietnamese-Style Clams in Lemongrass Broth (Con Nghêu Hấp)
serves 2-3

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth



500 g baby clams, soaked and cleaned
2-4 slices of ginger
4 lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced (see Note 1)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp fish sauce (see Note 2)
1-2 tbsp sugar
4-5 cups of water


Red chilies, chopped

Dipping sauce:

1/2 tablespoon grated ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 red chilies, chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lime juice

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth


Dipping sauce:

1. In a bowl, combine ingredients and mix well.


1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan/pot.
2. Lower heat (simmer), then add cleaned clams. Once they open, remove the clams from the water and transfer to a plate using tongs or a slotted spoon.
3. Add ginger, lemongrass, and garlic to the clam water, then let it simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Add fish sauce and sugar. At this point, taste your broth and adjust the saltiness/sweetness according to your liking.
5. Once satisfied with seasoning, return cooked clams and stir for no more than 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve in bowls, topped with cilantro and red chilies (optional). Serve with rice, dipping sauce, lime for squeezing (optional), and ice-cold beer (mandatory, joke).

Travel Through Food: Vietnamese Clams in Lemongrass Broth


1. Pound the root ends of the lemongrass with a knife (laid flat) before slicing thinly. Use only the soft, white/yellowish parts.
2. Ideally, Vietnamese fish sauce. But I mostly use Thai since that is easier to find here. Adjust the fish sauce according to your liking. Some prefer a saltier broth—I personally prefer a lighter broth with more dominant lemongrass/ginger flavors, rather than fish sauce.


Have you tried this dish in Vietnam? Did you like it? What do you think of this #TravelThroughFood recipe?

Read also:

Ho Chi Minh: A City of Contrasts
Saigon -- where the old and new seamlessly meet.

A Chef's Tour: The Hanoi You've Never Seen Yet
Get a taste of Hanoi through this market food tour!

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