Friday, May 07, 2010

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Snake alley, Huaxi Street, Taipei

5/07/2010 Taiwan Explorer

Following my new year's resolution, I've been nagging my girlfriend for a while to bring me to a snake restaurant in Taiwan. I said I wanted to try the snake soup. I thought it would be a fun adventure and a great topic to blog about. I was so wrong. I mean, it's interesting to blog about, but the dish itself didn't tempt me. Dear readers, I'm sorry that I torture your guts with toilets and frogs, but I can't help but share the famous snake alley with you. It's a small night market in the old part of Taipei, that attracts a lot of tourists. I try not to ramble too much, so let's get to the point.

SNAKES AS SNACKS? If you want to try the snake soup in Taipei, you can go to a famous night market called Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market 華西街觀光夜市, located near the Longshan Temple. You can see the main entrance of the market above. This one is meant for the tourists, not the locals, so you'll see quite many foreigners there. It's also known as Taipei's Snake Alley, because there are numerous restaurants that sell snake blood and snake soup. So we went to check that out.

The main alley of the Huaxi night market. Not as many people as at the Guangzhou.

A snake restaurant like many others.

WHAT DO YOU SEE: A snake hanging on the left, while people at the back are eating snake soups. In the middle is an uncle with the microphone talking, while few young people, who want to try the snake blood, wait to get their sip. On the right are people gathering to see the "show". I've seen at least four of these snake restaurants here. Usually there's an uncle talking and promoting his restaurant, trying to attract people. I have no idea what exactly he was saying, but he was talking a lot. It's interesting that all the snake shops ask you not to take photos. So when I first came to this one, I haven't noticed the warning and initially took a lot of photos, but then the uncle saw me and asked me to stop. I followed his request and just observed. So was everyone else. But I'm glad I made few pics. Soon there was a crowd of like 10 people gathering around the uncle and watching his "performance".

At the right side of the shop's entrance: snakes.

And more snakes... I think those are only displayed but not eaten.

ABOUT KILLING SNAKES: As you know, I was all eager to try the snake soup. But then when I saw how the snake got killed and I changed my mind. Yep. Let me clarify: I don't judge anyone who kills snakes and sells their meat. For me snakes are not pets, same as frogs, chicken, pigs, cows, lambs, ostriches and who knows what other wild or less wild animals eaten by humans. Sure, they can be pets, but they're not pets per se. That's how I see it. So yeah, I guess I'm weird in this regard. Truth is: Had I not seen the snake killed in front of me and seen the blood freshly dripping out and served as a drink to people, I most likely would've tried the snake soup.

HOW IT GETS KILLED: The uncle took the snake by the head and slammed it against the desk few times, so it lost conscience. And then he took a knife, cut it open and hung it on a small string (as seen below). The blood slowly dripped out, while the snake was still twitching a little. That's the part that gave me goose bumps and made me reconsider my decision. I felt very uneasy. So if you go there, please be sure you're ok seeing this, it's not for the faint hearted.

Bleeding snake on the string, click here to see a close-up photo>> [Think well, it's gross!]

SNAKE BLOOD: After that the uncle took a small glass and filled it up with fresh snake blood. That was a bit of a surreal experience. But well, I thought to myself: I'm seeing something in real what I usually see on Discovery. Slowly my right leg changed from goose bumps to numbness. That's the part where I said: "Ok, thank you very much, that's it, the show is over for me... bye bye." Of course the eventual drink is mixed with alcohol, to make the blood thinner and kill all the bacteria.

Uncle pouring the fresh snake blood drink. I would never try it. Thanks but no thanks.

Snake blood looks like strawberry juice here.

Youngsters drinking the blood. Respect!

These young most likely local Taiwanese really drunk the snake blood - a whole small glass in one long sip. I was just like: "Wow." Kudos to them, brave men (and a woman). It's said that snake blood increases your sexual power. Do you believe that? I guess it was a kind of a dare for the guys, they must have set some bets before they came to this place. Anyway, I won't eat snake meat or drink snake blood any time soon (probably never), how about you? Besides, I heard the meat is chewy and there are a lot of small bones in the soup. You can see a photo here.

Snake blood, pro or contra?

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