Recently, I bought a book from www.paddyfield.com called, "Cooking up a Dragon" which is an excellent resource for anyone interested in Hong Kong cuisine. The book contains recipes from a cross-section of Hong Kong ranging from tiny Dai Pai Dongs to Haute Cuisine offered in 5 Star Hotels.
When I first received the book, I eagerly flicked through each page until, to my absolute amazement, I found a recipe for SNAKE SOUP submitted by none other than the famous snake shop "Shia Wong Hip" in Sham Shui Po.
Now, not really wanting to go out of my way to buy my own special snake or snakes just to make this recipe (ok, still a bit petrified from my last snake shop experience), I decided to visit the shop today to see if I could actually pluck up the courage to try this famous delicacy. I arrived just before lunch time and studied the snakes in a cage out front before scanning the shop itself... lots of gweilo photo's on the walls, small uninspiring tables and stools, and the familiar wooden crates that I had seen previously at the snake shop in Sheung Wan. Ok, this is all right now let's see about hygiene. There was one Chinese gentleman busy tucking into his steaming bowl of soup and I actually saw another lady getting hers so was relieved to see that porcelain bowls and spoons were actually taken out of a steamer that sterilised the crockery and utensils. Not really wanting to get a dose of food poisoning, in addition to feeling sick after tasting the soup, I felt a lot better that at least I wouldn't get sick from the lack of hygiene.
Not knowing enough Cantonese to ask the lady for a spoonful rather than a bowl we played charades until she understood that I didn't actually want a regular bowl but just a taste. She removed a porcelain spoon and small bowl from the steamer then started filling it until it measured about half a cup. The soup and crockery was extremely hot, so I sat down, waited for a bit then took a tiny amount from the side of my bowl, sipped it then waited for the "yuck" factor to arrive. BUT, funnily enough it DIDN'T and all I could taste was a delicate sweet soup with hints of ginger and citrus. Although, I could see strands of snake in my bowl and the colour was a murky brown, the taste wasn't overpowering and the snake actually tasted a bit like chicken although I would go on to say that chicken meat is a bit stronger. I continued to sip my delightful snake soup and after I had finished went over to pay but the lovely lady motioned me to put my money back in my purse, gave me a hug and with a big smile ushered me out on to the street.
Shia Wong Hip is located at G/F 170 Apliu Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, Hong Kong Tel: +852 23869064
Note: If you buy the book you can substitute chicken for snake... phew! Also, click on the title to this post to see "Le Gourmet TV" footage of "Shia Wong Hip". The lady holding the snakes,"Chau Ka-Ling" is the lovely lady and restaurant owner that refused to take my money.
Also visit http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/071220-snake-video-ap.html
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