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Snake?

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A local Chinese restaurant is serving snake which I was told is a winter dish eaten for medicinal purposes.

I guess in the back of my mind I read something once about dried snake being used medicinally. I remember in Taiwan the street vendors will sell snake, but that seemed to be a more medicinal thing too.

Other than that my snake / meal knowledge was rattlesnake being eaten somewhere in the vicinity of Texas and the comment that it tastes like chicken.

So, who eats snake & why?

How is it prepared. Not really sure how that rattlesnake is prepared ... deep-fried like KFC?

Are there certain of types of snake to eat other than rattle?

What about big snakes? Seems you could get a nice roast-sized piece of meat out of a boa constrictor ... too tough & muscle-y?

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  1. Being from Texas, familiar with rattlesnake. It's almost always fried. There are at least 2 or 3 big rattlesnake roundups in the spring and the culmanate with a big rattlesnake fry. It's alright, nothing that I would go out of my way to get however.

    1. Serving rattlesnake is a gimmicky touristy thing in some Texas restaurants. Basically, it's a tough, bland meat that (if you dredge it in cornmeal and fry) is edible. I certainly wouldn't make an effort to find it. The whole "medicinal food" thing is an Asian concept that I think is totally bogus. This is the same mindset that claims tiger penis and shark fins are magical elixirs. I won't even get into pulsating monkey brains!

      1. There's a traditional soup in Okinawa made from irabu, a poisonous sea snake. I think it's considered "medicinal" (but a lot of their dishes are). I haven't tried it, and I doubt many young people eat it. In the large public market in Naha, a lot of vendors sell irabu coiled up, like in the picture below, or straight, where they look like walking sticks. I once saw a TV show there where they made a soup with the eggs.

        http://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/eng/ryu...

        http://www.wonder-okinawa.jp/026/e/re...

        1. The Vietnamese eat snake--as food, not as a medicinal. They also drink wine that has aged with a cobra in the bottle. In Cantho (on the Mekong delta), hides are also havested. The funny bit is that to keep fresh skins from bein damaged, the hides are blown up like balloons.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            I guess snake drinks are not uncommon. Here's one for California rattle snake.
            http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink2640....

            Seriously though, this article from the Honolulu Star Buletin talks about small Vietnamese snakes that are grilled with lemon.
            http://starbulletin.com/2001/01/17/fe...

            It goes on to give a mail-order source (in Seattle) for cobra ($24.50 lb ... farmed in Maylasia) & rattle-snake ($39.95 free-range from Texas & Arizona).

            The owner of the business says
            "Cobra is described as similar to conch ... a lot like calamari. Rattlesnake is light and chewy" He says it does taste like chicken but has its own distinct flavor.

            There's a recipe in the article for fillet-o-snake. Snake seems to pair well with mushrooms & wine. Here's the website for those wanting snake or other exotic meats
            http://www.exoticmeats.com

            Excellent article that answers my Chinese snake question including the type of snake used. Also a tip that if you let the vendor keep the gall bladder, you can get a discount on the rest of the snake.
            http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataa...

            Part of the reason for winter snake dishe in China is because the snakes are fattest because they are going into hibernation.

            Found this that said some but not all people eat snake in Africa. In the Congo boa meat is smoked and then simmered in pili pili sauce which is made of hot chile peppers, tomatoes, and onion.
            http://www.congocookbook.com/c0138.html

            In the good old USofA if you run into a deal on rattlesnake there is
            - Baked Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (in mushroom cream sauce
            )- Bar-B-Q'd Rattler (teriyaki sauce, ginger & sesame seeds)
            - Fried Rattlesnake with Ham Gravy (great for any white meat)
            - Rattlesnake Kabobs (using A-1 sauce)
            - Rattlesnake Lupinaci (mushrooms, syrah & oyster sauce)
            - Stuffed Diamondback (cornbread & Jack Daniels whiskey)
            http://www.backwoodsbound.com/zsnake....

            Tired of the same old crab cakes ... snake cakes
            http://www.recipesource.com/main-dish...

            Snake chili
            http://www.gamecalls.net/wildgamereci...

            Someone had a recipe for snake salad ... think chicken salad with mayo ... substitute snake.

            Seems in Guam it is can be made either cooked in coconut milk or marinated in sherry & Italian salad dressing then fried.
            http://www.fort.usgs.gov/resources/ed...
            http://www.fort.usgs.gov/resources/ed...

            Seems like the Blackfeet Indians made a sort of snake aspic with mint
            http://www.melborponsti.com/mel-first...

            Python Soup from New Guinea that starts with "First, catch your snake"
            http://www.anahitagallery.com/ahrecip...

            What is the world coming to when you can find snake recipes on the Wal-mart site ... you know they never tell you what that snake is made of ... just place snake in pan of water & freeze. Do they mean a REAL snake ... from where? The pet department? How do I pull out that tongue for display purposes ... tweezers?
            http://walmart.triaddigital.com/Recip...

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I rather enjoyed a stir-fried cobra dish in Cantho a few years ago, though the meat was very lean and not in itself flavorful. It was just another item on the menu though.

            2. Dominique's, one of Washington, DC's outstanding French restaurants in days gone by, used to serve rattlesnake as an appetizer. It was popular and very tasty as prepared by the accomplished kitchen.

              Snake was also available, but not easy to acquire, in Taipei's Snake Alley in the early 1990's, where it had once been widely sold. I arranged it for a group of US businessmen on a trade tour who insisted on trying it. There was some pressure from animal rights activists about this and other local customs so the snake vendor demanded no videos or photos. He killed a large live snake and drained the blood and bile for drinking. Some kind of macho/potency thing. The meat was sold for food in the stall which also sold turtle and other reptile meat.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MakingSense

                Snake Alley in Taiwain was still doing the snake thing in the late 90's when I was there ... same deal though ... no photos. Didn't try it.

              2. I had it many years ago at a BBQ place in NJ - for some reason I think it may have been Lily Langtry's (which is probably long gone). It was "ok" - a novelty. I don't remember how it was prepared, nothing to write home about but at least I can say I tried it.

                1. Snake is usually served in a stew or soup in Cantonese restaurants, and is seasonal (winter). It's supposed to be medicinal. It tastes like chicken mainly because it's stewede in chicken broth. During winter season you'll see restaurants specializing in snakes with cages of snakes outside.

                  1. I have had rattlesnake served the way Alligator tail is. Fried with a dash of monosodium glutamate, salt, pepper and some dried corn starch. It is very tasty when served that way but it is so lean - without the msg, it is rather bland. I'd be curious since Florida is up to their armpits in pythons these days - if a 280 lb 15 foot monster might be able to take center stage in a large holiday meal. An animal that big could feed a large group of people.

                    1. I had rattlesnake pierogies at a restaurant in Pittsburgh a few years back.

                      This place makes very good pierogies, and they always have a pierogie special on the menu. The rattlesnake pierogies are one of the more gimmicky specials they trot out from time to time. A couple others I remember trying have been the crocodile and eel pierogies, but I digress.

                      The rattlesnake pierogie was just OK. The other filling ingredients included southwestern/tex-mex ingredients, and they were very good. The rattlesnake meat is what held the pierogie back. Like others have said upthread, the meat was just bland. It really didn't impart much of anything to the pierogie other than some texture.

                      That's been the only time I've ever tried rattlesnake, and I imagine it will be the last...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MonMauler

                        Rattlesnake has to be flavored with something else or it will be bland. I love Alligator tail but if its not seasoned right, it's also very bland.

                      2. Who can resist a boiled python?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: beevod

                          What about Anaconda? There are supposed to be a lot of them that were former pets loose in the Everglades.

                        2. Australian Aboriginal people traditionally hunt and eat snake - many are still doing so in the north. Generally the snake is speared and tossed whole on to a fire to cook. They cook many other reptiles this way, including goanna's and crocodiles.

                          1. Cooked up someTexas rattlesnake once on our hibachi grill, & while I hate to join what must be a humongous cliche - it tasted just like chicken. Granted, a chicken shaped like an eel, but chicken nonetheless.

                            1. I recall grilling a few rattlers at a ranch in Webb County TX, along with quail and goat over mesquite coals. We marinated them overnight in Italian salad dressing. I killed one after sunset and cut its head off, and didn't get back to the ranch for an hour or so. I skinned and eviscerated the rattler, and its heart was still beating. Tough critters, those rattlers.