Snake, Blood, Wine, and a Beating Heart
Snake wine: an alcoholic drink prepared with blood or the gall bladder of the snake mixed with rice wine. Yum!
The process to prepare the drink is entertaining, the ingredients surprising. The viscera of a fresh snake is removed, its gall bladder and heart kept separately. Its blood is gathered in a small glass. Before drinking, everything is mixed with 35-40% proof rice wine. The one who gets to drink the still beating snake heart is said to gain good ‘energy’.
Another way to prepare snake wine is to put a large snake into a glass jar with strong rice wine. Normally, a venomous snake is chosen, for example the trio of cobra, krait and coluber that symbolize Heaven, Mankind and Earth. In the south of Vietnam, people prefer the trio of krait, bongar and cobra; or the quintet of krait, bongar, coluber and two cobras. Both fresh and dry snakes are suitable to be mixed with rice wine. But fresh ones are preferred.
Vietnamese people start to clean the snake’s body before mixing it with ginger wine for about 30 minutes to eliminate the fishy smell. Then they place the snake into a glass jar of strong wine (60-70% alcohol) and leave it for three months, after which it’s ready to be drunk.
In Vietnam you can find snake wine at Le Mat village. This village, located about seven kilometers from Hanoi, is famous for its tradition of catching snakes. In fact, some say that the only snakes left in the village and its environs are the ones bred in captivity to supply meat to the snake restaurants in the village and local wine. Only a half-hour’s drive from central Hanoi, Le Mat Snake Village specializes in serving grass snake and cobra dishes such as snake meat soup, snake tail with crispy lemongrass, deep-fried snake bones, and spring rolls with snake.
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