Playing rock, scissor and paper about who drinks the heart of a cobra wasn’t the plan for the first evening in Saigon. And my plan was to blog a bit more about our culinary adventures in Singapore, but sitting on the bed of our hotel “Beautiful Saigon” and thinking about last night, I feel that this is far more interesting.
We arrived yesterday afternoon and realized that Saigon is everything Singapore was not: noisy, chaotic, a bit untidy and in a heart-warming way all over the place. We left our hotel in the middle of the backpackers’ district Pham Ngu Lao and went for a stroll. In a t-shirt shop we ran into two Finnish guys, who had just returned from Phu Quoc island. After a five-minute chat we decided to go for a beer (or two). After the beers, we discussed about going to a restaurant, and one of the guys show us a web forum, where someone had mentioned a restaurant serving cobra. And not just piece of cobra meat, but a whole cobra. Want to try? We said we were in. The bar-owner knew the place and directed the taxi driver.
We had bad luck. The restaurant, Huong Rung, was just about to close and the waiters didn’t want to let us in. But when they heard about us wanting a cobra meal, they changed their mind. Obviously cobras are a lucrative business, I thought, and when we sat down, I realized that we also had entertainment value: all members of the staff gathered around us, when one of them brought a living cobra snake in a bag for presentation.
I haven’t mentioned Madventures yet, but that’s when it came to my mind. 🙂
Being the only lady, I got to choose the vodka for the food, and picked Russki Standard. The show began.
One of the staff members picked the cobra from the neck and the tail and lifted it from the bag. A waiter brought a metal plate and a jar for the blood. Another guy took scissors and cut the skin of the cobra (poor snake, I thought, but obviously there was really nothing I could do at that point). He found something that seemed to be the blood vein and cut it. He let the blood drip into the jar (at this point the cobra died) and squeezed, so that the heart came out of the snake’s body. Pulsing. (Repulsing!)
After pouring out the blood, they took the snake into the kitchen, and one of the waiter ladies mixed some deciliters of vodka with the blood in the jar and poured schnaps for us. It looked like strawberry juice. Skål! And tasted like normal vodka.
The extra schnaps was the one with the heart of the snake. The guys played rock, paper and scissors, and somehow Alanmies ended up drinking it. He said it felt like swallowing a snail.
The cobra was served in three ways: stewed with onions and mushrooms, in a soup with beans and lentils and grilled with salt and chili. The soup was actually very tasty and I ate quite a lot of onions and mushrooms!
But yes, how was the cobra? “It tastes like chicken! – right?” It did. A bit. But as I don’t usually eat meat, I didn’t like the texture. I chewed and chewed, but nothing seemed to happen. The only good bit was a part of some organ or muscle that tasted like liver. But the skin almost made me throw up.
The most horrible part of the meal was when Alanmies lifted the tail from the soup and imitated eating it, and at the same time I saw how a brown small rat run from one corner of the restaurant towards the door. I almost screamed. I still don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe it was the bloody vodka?
This adventurous dinner cost us 25 euros per person, which is an astronomical price in Saigon.
After the dinner I had a banana milkshake and Vienamise rhum for dessert in on of the corner cafes near our hotel, listening to europop and honking horns in the myriad of neonlights. It felt like that dinner was a whole lot to melt, not only physically, but also mentally. But I suppose these are the experiences people look for when travelling.
The cobra serving restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon:
Huong Rung 1, DC 371 Nguyen Trai
Huong Rung 2, DC 146 Hai Ba Trung
Huong Rung 2, DC 146 Hai Ba Trung
P.S. My sore throat is back to normal. Thanks to cobra? Or vodka?