October 6, 2016
Eating Snake in Le Mat Snake Village
After quite a bit of deliberation I had decided to go to Le Mat--the snake village 7km east of Hanoi city. The village is comprised of various restaurants that serve many types of exotic animals, though snake is the main attraction. For being a 'touristy' area we were the only white people for miles. Actually the only people around were the several households eating meals in their own houses. We walked the maze of streets and only found 2 places that seemed to be willing to serve us, though there were dozens of signs suggesting that there were other restaurants (did they only old special hours?). The streets were deserted and silent except for the sporadic and unprovoked barking from dogs hiding just out of sight. We settled on a place called Trong Nghia, which was suggested by our hotel. They were charging 600,000 dong ($27 USD) for a snake, which would include the entire meal. Another place was charing 700k dong. Although I considered ordering entrees a la carte, which would have resulted in a cheaper meal, I ultimately decided to buy an entire snake--that was the reason for coming all this way, wasn't it?
I walked through the property and couldn't seem to find where I supposed to go. There was no one around to help me or to show me a menu. Out of the blue a guy holding a snake came over to me and gestured for me to take the snake. I took the snake and 'inspected it'. I nodded, indicating everything was in order, and he told us to sit down.
The restaurant, along with the entire Le Mat area, was abandoned. The placard on the wall read "VISA" and "MASTERCARD" so I knew we were in a tourist area, but it sure didn't feel like it. Around the restaurant were scattered cages holding various animals that would ultimately end up on the dinner table just meters away. I skimmed through the menu, which had many a la carte options, as the staff prepared my snake. This particular restaurant also served: porcupine, weasel, iguana, eel, hog, horse, pigeon, goose, various other birds, rabbit, buffalo, cobra, bamboo snake, etc.
Sylvie and I sat back as we watched the young man and woman getting my snake ready for slaughter. Neither of us felt too happy about the whole ordeal. However I find it extremely hypocritical for a meat eater to eat meat without seeing how their food actually ended up on their plate. While one person restrained the snake the other killed it by inserting a blade through it's skull. Its blood was drained into once glass while it's digestive juice (bile) was emptied into another. Both were mixed with a splash of vodka and served to me right there. The still-beating heart of the recently killed snake was thrown into a shallow glass of voda. The heart, still rich with blood, turned the small amount of vodka a hazy red as it continued to beat.
I picked up the shot with the beating heart and poured all the contents into my mouth and swallowed it. Next came the glass of fresh snake blood followed by the glass of green bile. They were ok, but the strong taste of vodka overwhelmed much of the flavor.
For the next hour I was served one plate after another, each containing a different part of the snake that we just saw killed. I found all dishes to be quite appetizing. The crushed ribs mixed in fried bread crumbs was quite inventive. My meal consisted of:
- Snake Throws (egg rolls)
- Deep Fried Bread Snake with Rib
- Snake Baked Whole
- Grilled Snake Hamburger
- Fried Snake Arteries
- Steamed Sticky Rice with Snake Fat
The entire experience was intense and the restaurant knew exactly how to serve the snake to make it delicious. Sylvie made herself try a few plates and although she did really enjoy the flavor she couldn't bring herself to eat any more than just a nibble (not counting the sticky rice). I felt good that none of the snake went to waste. So much of an animal goes to waste in the western world, particularly America. I find it important to eat all the parts of an animal. To only order prime cuts of meat while not eating other parts is wasteful and in my opinion much more obscene than it is to kill an animal at the table. If we care about climate change and sustainable living then we should really reconsider the implications of not eating/using as much of an animal as we can. Every life matters, the more we can use of an animal the smaller the number of lives we need to end in order to fulfill our sinful cravings of meat. Please try to respect all life, which means using as much as possible of the animal that you killed for your meal (simply ordering a steak increases demand for beef and therefore increases the number of cattle to be slaughtered). Hiding behind a tablecloth and ordering a prepared piece of high-quality meat makes you just as guilty as if you killed the animal yourself. If you don't feel comfortable with seeing an animal being killed for your meal then you have no right to order meat in the first place. Although I participated in this 'seemingly barbaric' snake extravaganza it has been only 1 of many experiences that has shaped my views in trying to reduce the amount of meat I consume. How about you join me in taking up tofu Tuesdays?
We shipped a few purchases back home. Above are just a few of the things.