Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When In Kaohsiung ...

Posted By on Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 11:03 AM

The sight of the night market in Kaohsiung, Tawain, made my eyes blur and I slightly lost balance. I couldn't believe the amount of neon and people crammed into one small space. I grew up in a town of 450 people and am not used to having that many people crammed into a short alley.

Cue my tour guide, Manny, a middle-aged commodities broker from Taipei. She was reading the auras of certain booths, explaining that some of the items are manufactured on the “mainland” and that those items are considered cursed or bad luck. She was steadfast in not letting me buy a certain keepsake (an ornate axe) from a vendor she thought had a “bad spirit.”

Then we came to the snake stall, a squat area brightly lit by fluorescent lights. Cages of snakes lined the walls and the hissing made my skin crawl. The shop had whole snakes, snake heads and other critters in jars of rice whiskey. The label on the whole snakes claimed they cured all sorts of ailments from erectile dysfunction to pimples. I did not read the other labels. I went for the show.

Down the hatch with two more to go.
  • Down the hatch with two more to go.

In front of the snake stall, a man with a microphone stood holding and “charming” a snake. He explained that the cobra was one of the most deadly snakes in the world and that eating it would help my body, mind and soul transform into a powerful being like the cobra (this all coming through Manny).

The snake was first stunned by the charmer who smacked its head on the concrete floor of his stall. Then the poor beast was nailed to a board where the charmer took a pair of scissors up the intestinal track, exposing the snake's innards.

He pointed first to the gallbladder. “Good for skin,” Manny translated. He cut the top of the green orb and drained it into a cup of rice wine. Next he pointed to the heart. “Good for the body,” Manny said as he cut the main bloodline and drained it into another pitcher of rice wine. Then he took the snake off of the nail and milked its venom into another pitcher of rice wine. “Good for your, um, much like Viagra,” said Manny with a smirk.

Nauseatingly intrigued by the whole ordeal, I stumbled to a table and ordered a shot of each: blood, bile and venom. Manny was not happy about this, but I insisted. Each went down the hatch. I shook visibly after taking all the shots, my stomach and mind not sure what had just happened.

I knew I had passed a wall in my culinary explorations. No longer was I afraid of food. Braised weasel nuts? Bring it. A dish called “boil the intestines?” Why the heck not. Horse? Hell, yeah. Besides, when in Kaohsiung

Randy King loves to eat all things snake, and then write about it.. Click to follow Randy on Facebook.

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