The World On A Plate


Biting the Heart from a Live Snake, Hanoi, Vietnam


Holding the snake ready

I was aware that the eating of snake’s heart was a Vietnamese tradition. So I duly went along to the nearest ‘snake village’ to Hanoi, where the creatures are farmed for meat. It was only on arrival that we (there was a group of us) were told that we would actually be biting the still beating heart out of the live snake. This was horribly unexpected. Some of the group could also volunteer to slice the snake open first.

To be fair the snakes had been frozen first (I think – they didn’t move around much, all things considered). But the whole experience was really quite upsetting. Seeing those little beady eyes and flickering tongue up close.

Snake bones

They were only little snakes, so when my time came to bite out the beating heart I was quite relieved to see a heart about the size of a peanut. My concern at this stage was to get things over with as soon as possible for the poor snake, so I declined the option to rest my tongue against the live heart to feel it’s pulse.

Snake skin plus snake fat (yellow stuff to the left)

The heart itself was salty, bloody in taste and cold. You don’t expect this as a warm-blooded species.

After The Eating Of The Heart we were then given a five course parade of various snake bits cooked in different ways. There was snake skin, stir-fried, crunchy and… well, it was OK. Snake bones – more of the same and actually pretty nice. Snake fat, mixed into a rice dish, which probably would have been delicious if you hadn’t of known what it was, and then finally snake fillet meat. Disturbingly grey, but nice – like a meaty kind of fish.

Snake blood and bile in rice wine

Oh, and snake bile. I’d forgotten about the bile. Also blood. Washed down with rice wine. It didn’t taste any worse than the rice wine, which I suppose is something. Luckily there were beers on hand to negate the taste of both.

Snake Village outside Hanoi, tours can be arranged from Hanoi Backpackers

posted under Vietnam

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