In this post, I welcome my first guest blogger, Kha Hoang, whom I met back 5 years ago studying abroad in Spain.  Here, he travels from San Diego, California all the way to Hanoi, Vietnam and decides to get down and dirty, with the snakes that is.  It's been a year since my bug eating adventures so this was the perfect post:

If you are an adventurous eater and want to invoke the spirit of Andrew Zimmern, one destination that should be considered is Le Mat Village.  Le Mat village is called the Snake Village and is about 30 minutes outside of Hanoi’s Old Quarter in Vietnam.  Here you can find many restaurants that specialize in the preparation of snake for your eating pleasure.

When we sat down, a guy came out with a live snake and proceeded to slice it open right next to our table within a minute of us getting there.

The snake handler first slits it and then drains some blood into a pitcher of rice wine and then after that is done, he cuts out the heart while it is still beating and places it in a plate to be put into a shot later on.

The snake then is ready to go back into the kitchen.  Some places cut open the gall bladder and put snake bile into the rice wine as well, unfortunately (maybe fortunately) our restaurant did not do this.  Something to take note of, we were told that eating snake increases guys’ “sexy power.”

This was how our snake was prepared:

You could be fooled, it looks like a strawberry drink
Rice wine infused with snake blood – the rice wine is relatively strong, probably at least 60 proof.  You don’t really taste the blood in the rice wine.  However, if you let the blood rice wine sit at your table for a bit you can see the blood start to coagulate, which led me to want to take them quicker so as not to get too sketched out about doing them.

Snake’s beating heart inside on­e of the shots – I wanted to do this, but I allowed my older brother to take it.  He said you don’t taste the heart when it is in the shot, but you feel it beating as it goes down.

From L to R: fried snake skin, grilled snake, deep fried snake spring rolls, snake meat in la lot 
Fried snake skin – nothing special really, it was fried but it was still a little chewy

Grilled snake – I wasn’t a big fan of this.  All of the dishes had bones in them (a lot of bones) and eating this was a chore.  Snake definitely has a distinct taste, most similar thing I have eaten previously was frog.  The texture is closer to chicken than beef if you haven’t tried frog before.

Deep fried snake spring rolls – These were pretty tasty, but small for a deep fried spring roll.  The snake was pretty mild tasting here.

Snake meat with lemon grass and chili wrapped in la lot (betel leaf) – This was probably my favorite dish.  If you have ever been to a Vietnamese restaurant and ordered Bo 7 Mon (7 courses of beef) then you would recognize this dish.  This dish, the snake spring rolls, and fried snake skin were did not have bones in them.

Pan fried bones with rice crackers – the thought of this one was not terribly appealing.  To eat this you spoon some fried bones onto a rice cracker then put on some nuoc mam cham (dipping sauce that you often get when you eat spring rolls).

Rice porridge with snake – This was just like any other rice porridge but with small bits of snake

A couple tips if you are to go to Le Mat:
  • Negotiate the price before you sit down to eat
  • Ask them if you can watch them cook the snake (to make sure it is the one they originally brought out).
  • If it looks good, eat it (and even if it doesn’t, try it)
Lastly, thanks Linda for letting me be a guest blogger on My Hungry Monster.

Post by Kha Hoang.  Photos by Kha Hoang and Benjamin White.