Snake Alley: Only for the bravest warriors

Warning: Graphic Descriptions

The other day, my friend and I decided to stop in to “Snake Alley”, which is famous for its snake meat restaurants. As I understand it, these restaurants used to be very popular with tourists but are now illegal due to backlash from the government. Everything was very secretive and you’re not allowed to take any pictures (I found the picture below on the internet). Nowadays, this area is also home to prostitution and all of the other vices of Taipei, thus adding to the creepy allure of the place.

As we walk in, we are greeted by tanks with humongous snakes. I quickly walk through this area and into the restaurant. I should mention– I’m deathly afraid of snakes. But I was there to test my gall.

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Luckily, we chose one of the restaurants that does not do a live demonstration of preparing the snake. I don’t think I could have eaten it after watching. But as I understand it, they slit the snake along its length, and hang it over a bucket to collect the blood, like in the picture below. Then they mix the blood with alcohol to kill the bacteria. The rest they chop up for soup.

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We also tried snake wine and snake penis wine. For these, they leave the snakes (or relevant parts) in jugs with the wine over time so that the snake becomes infused into the wine.

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There’s snake medicine, which I’m not sure about… but I think it had some medicinal herbs and snake oil.

Then there was snake venom. Apparently this is ok to ingest because venom only works if it gets in your bloodstream; stomach acids break down the venom, so it’s not harmful to drink. But I read after the fact that if you have a cut in your mouth or digestive tract that the poison could get ya. Cue panic.

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Luckily, there was a snake venom antidote included in there. Not sure what that was made of.

Finally, we had a big dish of snake meat with basil sauce.

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So… the blood was a bit sweet. Venom tasted like turpentine (yes, I’ve tasted turpentine before. It was an accident, ok?) And the wines tasted winey. The soup had a bunch of snake heads in it which were hard to eat because they were all cartilage. But the basil snake dish was easier to try. People have said that snake tastes like chicken, and I have to disagree. That’s just something they always say with new meat due to a limited descriptive vocabulary. I’d say that it was more like a soft eraser. You know there are much better things you could be eating, but it’s not so unpleasant that you stop chewing on it.

The funny thing was that after eating the snake meat and drinking the blood, I went back out and stood next to the ginormous snake and stared into its eyes for a while. I didn’t have any urge to run in terror. Maybe with the snake blood running through my veins, I became one with the beast for a short while.

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