Anyone looking for a morally questionable and slightly horrifying bit of adventurous dining need look no further than the tiny Hanoi village of Lệ Mật, where live snakes are gutted before your very eyes and then served back to you ten ways.
Known colloquially as “Snake Village” (a nickname that is undoubtedly encouraged in an effort to draw tourists), Lệ Mật is run through with winding streets where the daring traveler can find a collection of restaurants advertising that snake is on the menu. The people of the village have long been known as expert snake hunters and exterminators, being hired out all around the city to take care of slithering infestations. Now they’ve turned that expertise into culinary gold. Both tourists and desultory local businessmen flock to the village every night to get lit on snake shots and fill up on their guts.
After the size and type of snake is chosen, the living specimen is presented to diners and the heart is removed, dropped instantly into a shot of blood and vodka. After that still-beating amuse-bouche, another sickly shot is created using the snake’s bile. Then the fresh corpse is taken to the kitchen and introduced into ten different dishes, including crisped snake skin and crushed-bone poppadoms.
For many, the wholesale snake slaughter that takes place in the name of drawing some local business is a less-than-savory practice. But many visitors seem to enjoy the savory dishes.
Know Before You Go
7 km northeast of central Hanoi, Vietnam, in the city's Long Biên District. Best reached by taxi.