About 5 miles east of Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the perfect place to sample a local delicacy – snake. The Vietnamese locals that live in Le Mat snake village have been hunting and catching snakes for generations. If you meet one of them who has been at it for a long time they will have stories of being bitten or they may even be missing a finger or two.
The town is now filled with snake restaurants catering to both Vietnamese locals and foreigners. It is a popular place for tourists to go and dare each other to take shots of rice wine mixed with snake blood. But it’s also a popular place for Vietnamese people to go as they believe that snake is the ultimate aphrodisiac and should be eaten by men to increase their strength and virility. So if they want to make some babies, snake is a good way to get started.
Read on to learn all about what to expect when you go to Le Mat to try the famous local cuisine!
How to Order Snake in Vietnam
You’ll start your meal (well, it’s really more of an experience) by selecting the type of snake that you’d like to eat. You’ll generally be offered the option to check out the merchandise before you buy. So they’ll either show you your live snake (if you’ve made a reservation) or they’ll take you to the basement so you can see what snakes are available for consumption.
The smaller snakes are cheaper and less expensive and the price goes up as the snake size increases.
How Much Does it Cost to Eat Snake in Vietnam?
The price that you’ll pay to eat snake in Vietnam will depend on the type and size of snake you want to eat. Bamboo snake will run you about $50/kg, mountain snake is around $60/kg, and cobra is the most expensive at $70/kg. That price is inclusive and not charged per person.
Plan on ordering about 1/2 kg of snake per person. The more people you can round up the bigger, more impressive snake you can buy.
But you won’t just get the snake. That cost covers 10+ different delicious dishes that are prepared using all parts of the snake – including the bones and organs. You’ll also get all the rice wine and beer you can drink. Bottled water, coffee, and tea is also included in the price.
Killing and Cooking the Snake
The restaurant staff will begin by holding your live snake out for you to behold – one person on each end. Then, faster than you can say “WAIT!” they’ll whip the snake around and slam it onto the ground, killing it instantly. If you want to catch this on video, be prepared because it happens really fast.
Then they will remove the heart and start draining the blood. The heart will be mixed with rice wine and then offered to whoever in your group is gutsy enough to drink it.
This is the part of the snake that supposedly is the most virility-producing and generally goes to a man rather than a woman (but not in our case!). Don’t try to chew it, just take it down like a shot.
The blood and bile of the snake will also be mixed with rice wine for you to sample during your meal.
If you’d like to head down to the kitchen you can see the snake being skinned, gutted, and cleaned before being cooked. In our case it was a teenage girl that tied the snake head to the wall and peeled the entire skin off in one piece. But the most intriguing thing to witness was the tail that continued to wiggle even though the snake had been dead for 10 minutes.
What Part of the Snake Do You Eat?
Everything! Practically every single part of the snake is used. While the menu may vary a bit depending on the restaurant you choose, it will likely be similar to what we ate in Le Mat. The meal included the following dishes:
- Snake egg soup
- Grilled snake ribs
- Snake spring rolls
- Snake meat wrapped in La Lot leaves
- Sauteed snake stomach, liver, and testicles
- Sauteed snake meat
- Fried snake bones with rice crackers
- Crispy snake skin
- Sticky rice steamed in snake fat
- Snake porridge
- Snake broth with ginger
Snake is actually really tasty. It’s lean and tastes a bit like chicken. But if you are eating it off the bone it is a very small amount of meat, similar to trying to eat frog.
Tips for Eating Snake in Le Mat
- Take a Grab. Le Mat is about a 25-minute ride from the Old Quarter of Hanoi. You’ll save money by taking Grab rather than a taxi.
- Don’t scrimp. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so get that big, impressive snake and enjoy the show!
- Eat the heart. It’s gross but makes for a great story.
- Watch the snake being prepared. It makes the dining experience much more interesting when you see the process.
- Don’t rush. Plan on spending 2-3 hours at the restaurant to get the full experience.
Our Snake Restaurant Recommendation
Our restaurant of choice was The Hung Snake Restaurant, owned by a hilariously entertaining man named Dragon whose motto is “happiness first, money second”. Not only did he provide us with a ton of information about the restaurant and the snake parts, but he also joked the entire time about how we could borrow his bedroom.
If you want to visit The Hung Snake Restaurant, be sure to make a reservation in advance because the restaurant gets really busy, especially on weekends. You can reach Dragon directly on Facebook.
Planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!
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