Yes, we eat snakes. Traditional Chinese medicine books noted that snake is good for us, especially during winter time. It helps you to be stronger against the cold.
There are many ways of eating snake. I remember seeing snakes being taken out from baskets and being butchered alive on the street in Hong Kong when I was little. Their gall bladder was taken out and dipped in a small glass of transparent alcohol. The
killer seller then gave it to the onlooker (usually men) who offered the highest price for it. It is believed to be good for manhood. These days, open snake slaughtering is banned as it is considered to be cruel and unhygienic. We usually have snake in the form of soup.
A good snake soup should have lots of snake meat. A lot of restaurants offer snake soup during winter time but the soup tends to have more chicken meat than snake meat. It is kind of cheating as chicken is obviously cheaper! It is better to have it in snake specialist shops, among which Snake King Hip is the best. It is a broth made from 5 different types of snake and chicken meat. It is very meaty and you can tell straight away that it is made from a lot of snake meat (as you can even see the mark left on the meat by the soft bones, and the impression of the skin). Snake King Hip also adds chicken, pork bones and cloud ear fungus to enhance the flavour and texture.
There are different condiments you can add to the snake soup. I like deep fried crispy strips, know as ‘bok chiu’ in Cantonese. It is crunchy and it makes the texture of the soup more interesting.
I also like shredded lemon leaves. It is not as sharp as lemon, but it is very refreshing. Some shops offer chrysanthemum petals as well. Some people like it with vinegar. They are all used to counter the slight ‘fishy’ aroma of snake.
Snake King Hip
There is also a Snake and Wild Animal Banquet, which I am very curious to try. You need to book a table for 12 at least 3 days in advance though. For HK$2640 (around £220), it has dishes like: 5 snake soup, snake juice cooked with lettuce, fish swim bladder with snake belly, snake balls deep fried with salt and pepper, braised soft shell turtle 山瑞 and slow cooked soup with 8 pairs of gecko 蛤蚧, etc. The set meal also includes a bottle of snake gall bladder wine, together with soft drinks. It is not for the faint hearted. Apparently, eating these animals has good medicinal benefits (for humans that is, not for the animals obviously).
Snake soup- small HK$15 (£1.20), large HK$20 (£1.80)
170 Ap Liu Street, Sham Shui Po
Tel: 2728 5600