A delicacy in China, Vietnam and some neighbouring countries, the best place to drink snake wine, reportedly, is Le Mat, the Snake Village in Hanoi, Vietnam. Here, one can pick out a snake from cages full of lethal ones. Those with strong stomachs can actually watch the poor slithering sod being killed—by smacking it’s head on a hard surface—and sliced open from head to tail. Those who perform this rather wretched operation have apparently been bitten so many times, they’re immune to the poison. The blood and bile is then separated, and the blood, heart and gall bladder are mixed with rice wine.
Another option is to choose from large glass jars, where this wine is fermented with the bodies of the carcasses coiled around the bottom. These wines are categorised according to the number of snakes (sometimes up to ten) in the jar. Often, they’re rather artistically (if morbidly) coiled with their heads cocked, tongues out, and eyes glaring—as if challenging a necrophile to take a sip!
While most find this potent wine too repulsive to try, those who’ve cultivated the taste claim it’s a bit like a Bloody Mary—with real blood! But it’s not just the flavour that wins it fans. Besides supposed healing properties, snake wine is also hailed as an aphrodisiac. In fact, its popularity actually led to the Vietnamese government putting a trade ban on many restaurants that served it, because of a possible ecological disaster: with the massacre of these ageold rat-killers, the rodent population could escalate, leading to an epidemic.
Yet, the cobra is still killed to concoct this wine. One of the best restaurants to sample it, in Le Mat, is called Le Khanh, a ‘traditional family restaurant’. The owners have opened up a part of their home, and keep the snakes in their courtyard, killing them on demand. Survival of the slipperiest, perhaps?
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/ni2x