Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2019, a number of videos surfaced on the internet showing Chinese people eating different kinds of foods insinuating that was how the virus spread in China. Covid-19 was first recorded in China’s Wuhan city in Hubei Province. It was linked to a fresh meat market located in the city. The world’s attention was drawn on kind of meat Chinese ate.
The market in question sold live snakes and frogs among other wild animals. Snakes and frogs are eaten around the world but very popular in Asia and particularly China. There are several ways Chinese chefs prepare these especially snake meat. Snakes are eaten for their nutritious value and medicinal properties. They are said to be rich in proteins and valuable fats. However, preparation requires special skills in order to be able to remove the venom and other poisonous parts. Snakes according to experts can still bite even after they have been killed.
There was a report some time ago when a chef from Indonesia was bitten by a snake head 20 minutes after it was cut off. The victim was said to be preparing a special dish from meat of a cobra.
Despite the dangers of handling snakes, those who consider it meat are not deterred.
Only those who do not eat these creatures think they are ghastly, creepy and dirty but for those who eat, it’s a delicacy worthy their money and risk. Young Chinese when asked if they eat snakes, often debunk the allegations stating that it was in the past.
One local Chinese man when asked if he ate snake meat, he answered, “Yes. I find snake meat a bit dry but bullfrog meat actually tastes really, really hao chi (delicious).”
He went on to say that the snakes and frogs they eat are farmed and not wild. They are as clean as other meat like chicken and pork. Snakes and frogs are eaten not because people are poor and hungry because poor and hungry people don’t get to choose what to eat. These are eaten out of choice and also for their nutritional values.
Snake soup is also another way of eating snakes. It is a Chinese delicacy that contains as many as five different types of snake meat. Boiled with ingredients such as pork bones, chicken, and spices, this thick soup is especially popular in Hong Kong during the winter months. Snake is typically served fried on the bone and with so many ribs to work around it can be a time-consuming task. Upmarket restaurants often remove the ribs and can prepare the meat in a variety of ways, with vegetables and other side dishes when served as a hotpot. The most popular method of eating snake is in hot pot and restaurants serve a variety of snake breeds for the customers to try and compare. Appetizers usually consist of snake bone soup before the main courses. Snake meat has been compared to the taste of chicken, with a more rubbery texture. Snake soup is a 2,000 year old Chinese/Cantonese delicacy eaten in China, Taiwan and other parts of Eastern Asia.
Snake soup is called ‘Se Gang (蛇羹)’ in China and is said to possess medicinal qualities and so it is often eaten as a health supplement. Different snakes can be used in Snake Soup and customers often pick them out themselves before the chef cooks them. However, since snake soup takes such a long time to cook, the chef will usually pick the snakes with the most common being the water snake and the python.
Live snakes are specialties of Chinese chefs. These dishes are prepared very quickly so that the customers can eat snake meat when it is still alive and moving. Observation from videos shared online showed the chefs, as fast as they could, cut the head, removed the skin, the bowels, to eliminate the parasites, cut the meat, and serve the raw snake.
In 2009, 41 year-old Wen Xide a peasant from Wangzhuang village, Zhumadian was trending on social media after a video surfaced where he ate a live snakes with a cold beer. In some reports, eating of snakes is said to have been banned in China.
Snake bile though poisonous, has long been valued as a tonic and used to make a special health drink at snake restaurants (which are today still found in southern China). The bile of a snake to be eaten is mixed with some rice wine and consumed before the meal as an invigorating beverage and appetite stimulant. In the treatment of diseases, snake bile is used for whooping cough, rheumatic pain, high fever, infantile conv ulsion, hemiplegia, hemorrhoids, gum bleeding, and skin infections. (Subhuti Dharmananda).
Snake meat remains a special dish in some parts of China though reports say their killing for meat was banned. Snakes are not eaten in China only but in different parts of the world. Do you eat snake meat?