A Saigon dish that worms its way into your heart

By Tam Linh   November 19, 2019 | 05:07 am PT
The peanut worm porridge, originally from China, is popular among Saigon food aficionados for both its taste and its health benefits.

The marine worm is found across Vietnam, especially in the central town of Nha Trang; Con Dao Island and provinces of Ben Tre and Bac Lieu in the south; and the northern province of Quang Ninh.

Known as sa sung in Vietnamese, the peanut worm is high in nutrition.

Known as sa sung in Vietnamese, the peanut worm is high in nutrition.

The worm was once used in making pho (rice noodle soup) to add to the flavor of the broth. A kilogram of fresh peanut worms costs around VND500,000 ($22), and dried ones cost VND1.8 - 2.5 million ($78-108).

Huyen, owner of a peanut worm porridge shop in Tan Phu District in Saigon, said the selection of ingredients was crucial to the flavor of the dish. "To identify delicious peanut worms, we should choose those that are thick, uniform in size and have a specific aroma that does not smell like fish."

Once the works are chosen, the cook cleans it meticulously because there’s a lot of sand in their guts, which, if not removed, will affect the taste of the porridge.

If made well, the worms remain intact and have a silver color.

If made well, the worms remain intact and have a silvery sheen.

Unlike other kinds of porridge that are cooked in advance, this dish is only made after the customer places an order, so the flesh is fresh and tender.

Each peanut worm porridge shop has its own recipe, using different herbs and spices to make the taste distinct. The porridge is usually served with garden chrysanthemum (also known as crown daisy) and sliced ginger. The herb blends well with the dish and adds to it health benefits.

A bowl of porridge costs VND50,000-70,000 ($2.2-3).

A bowl of peanut worm porridge costs VND50,000-70,000 ($2.2-3).

Saigon has two old porridge shops, Tu Ky at No.3, Alley 338, Au Co Street, Tan Binh District, and Tieu at No.22B, Alley 104, Trinh Dinh Trong Street, Tan Phu District, that serve this dish.

You can either get a standard bowl with 15-20 worms, or a mixed bowl with 7-10 worms and other ingredients like fish, shrimp, meat, liver and kidney. Each bowl of porridge costs VND50,000 - 70,000 ($2.2-3).

Phung, a resident of Tan Phu District, said the dish is "affordable, so I have it once or twice a week to feel healthier."

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