This blog post is not for the queasy or the faint hearted. You have been warned.
When you’re young, on a gap year, backpacking on a budget, and experiencing real exotic culture for the first time in your life, you can sometimes be impressionable to trying new things that – as you get closer to 30 – you look back on and think “I would not be able to do that now”! This is especially true of the young adventurer’s habit of experimenting with exotic foods. You couldn’t pay me enough to try most things now, but it’s something that I did right through my early twenties… just for the fun of it! You may have seen on my instagram account the photo I posted from Dalat in South Vietnam where we were ‘feasting’ on fried silk-worm, fresh from the local silk factory we’d visited earlier that morning. I tried all sorts in my younger years from fried locust in Malawi to fish eyes and crocodile in Peru.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now from my ramblings about eating exotic food, Snake Village in Hanoi is a restaurant where you go to eat snake. But this is not a gourmet fine-dining experience. The evening starts with a visit to the snake farm, where we had the opportunity to hold the snakes that we’d probably be eating later (species unknown) and also get up close and personal with a serious-looking Python that was (thankfully) handled by one of the Restaurant’s staff.
We were then shown to our table which involved walking across a number of cane bridges over stagnant water below to one of several cane huts with a “group” table in it. The staff brought out a bag of long skinny live snakes, and got straight down to business. Firstly, they filled a shot glass for each of us with fresh snake blood. Wasn’t expecting that, but hey, I was young and adventurous so I thought “I can do this!”. Strangest round of shots ever… Well, actually the strangest came next. For the second shot of blood the staff quickly and efficiently removed the snake’s heart which ended up in the bottom of the shot glass. The idea was that when you took the shot, you would be able to feel the still-beating heart of the snake as it made it’s way down your throat. Gosh, it makes me nauseous to even think about it now! But young and dumb me gave it a go and thankfully managed to keep it down! The third and final shot though, if you can believe it, was actually worse. The last round of shots were filled with luminous green snake bile… enough said.
The snakes were then all whipped off to the kitchen to be cooked up into a snake-feast for us. No part of the snake went unused, with dishes like crunchy snake-skin, ground snake bone and herb something-or-other, and baked snake meat wrapped in banana leaf being served up. I remember having a thought at one point like, “I bet this isn’t even culturally acceptable in Vietnam. I bet the staff are sat in the kitchen laughing their arses off at how naive us “culture-vulture” foreigners are for actually paying them to put us through this”.
After dinner, the group of us that had been sat together ended up in the nearest Irish pub to drink as much sterilising alcohol as possible, and to (attempt) to forget a little of what we did with our evening.
(Graphic) photo’s below: