Snakes on a Plate
Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
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Anyone who knows me very well knows I am frightened to death of snakes. Just reading the text made the hair on my arms stand up. My first reaction in our discussion now was a firm and resounding, NO! Why would I want to go to a place filled with snakes. Of course Jin's reaction was "yeah let’s try it". I asked Hang, my travel agent friend about it, and as she was telling us about it I was coming up with more excuses not to go then when I was in grade school and trying to get out of going to church on Sunday’s
Hang had been there before with a group and she says all these villages are for tourists, Vn people don’t do these villages – not for silk or pottery or rattan, or silver or gold…or snakes
Jin and I drove back to his apt and we got on one bike and made the long drive to the Snake Village of Le Mat. We really didn’t know where we were going but by asking several locals, we made it. Driving down the street was a bit harrowing for me because every sign had a snake on it and then when we stopped to consult the map I looked up and there was a huge aquarium full of snakes in a Chinese restaurant about 20 feet away. I started getting a bit anxious about my decision now and also found my self closely spying the ground more. After all according to our map/guide books snake catching and breeding in Le Mat has been practiced for almost 900 years. So I figured the place would be crawling with snakes (pun intended).
After several phone conversations we caught up with Az, his gf (Hung) and John. Hung had scouted out a floating restaurant for us and we made our way over the bridge to our seats. I of course was looking at the ground and in the trees for snakes. When I was in the silk village there was silk everywhere and the pottery village the same so why should I think this would be any different. They set up our table and within minutes of us sitting down (we chose floor seating) a young man showed up holding a squirming and coiling cobra by the tail
The restaurant staff and Hung discussed the dinner possibilities and in the end we decided on a 9 course meal that included some part of snake in every dish.
Following the dinner discussion was the cobra heart ceremony. So this is how it went down: they brought two cobras out and surprisingly enough I actually got up close to take photos, they slice a gash into their underbelly, drain blood into 5 shot glasses then reach in and pluck out the heart and drop them into two shot glasses and then pour whiskey on top. They set the glasses on a tray and hold it in front of us to take the glasses. I am guessing since the whole process of cutting, plucking and dropping into a glass of blood and whiskey took about 45 seconds that would explain why the hearts are still pumping. I held a glass of blood and whiskey but that’s where I drew the line. When Az and John had downed the bloody beating cobra heart shot I handed my bloody shot to John, and Hung handed hers to Az and they chased their first shots with our shots. A few minutes later they showed up with 5 more shots
Our nine course meal had every part of the snake included, as you will see in the photos. Some photos are a bit dark, for that I am sorry. But in nearly every photo you will recognize a snake part. I won’t say every course was good, interesting yes and in a few cases pretty tasty but I can honestly say, I’ve been there and ate that. The meal also included 2 bottles of snake wine, which tasted more like a strong liqueur. Nine courses including five shots of blood and in some cases beating hearts and 5 shots of cobra bile, plus dessert (watermelon) cost each of us about $40. In my opinion, well worth the experience and I lost some of my fear of snakes, which is worth ten times that amount.
So now I say lets move on in the realm of possibilities for food. Hung told us there is no form of animal or insect that the Vn people won’t eat, so it appears the realm of possibilities are endless. It’s been my experience that it’s an “area of the world” based thing to eat foods that others wouldn’t consider. I don’t think snake is all that weird but the beating heart…hmmm, I dunno about that.
Trust me to say that our dinner conversation was a little unusual as we all talked about weird things that we’ve eaten
During dinner the next food horizon was discussed. Jin wants to try turtle (and mouse, there are villages in the mountainous areas that eat mice – no, not rats that would truly be disgusting ), Az is interested in turtle also, as well as John so tonight they are going to a nearby Chinese restaurant for that one. I’ve already had turtle so I passed on tonight’s feast. Although, I am interested in going to China this summer and trying out some of the insect delicacies I’ve read about. Who knows maybe I can talk the other guys into a National Geographic or Food Channel show where we travel around the world and dine on weird foods…I know there’s a show like that already but if I can just come up with a weird twist……yes Brenda, I know what you’re thinking, I’ve always been a bit twisted.
Have a great week my friends, and Bon Appetit!