Weird Foods: Reptile
- Alligator on a Stick (US South): Chucks of deep fried alligator (tail part, battered in corn meal, seasonings, probably similar to snake recipe) served on a 10 inch wooden skewer. Seen mostly at outdoor festivals. Has a chewy consistency like undercooked pork. Tastes like alligator.
Most people balk at the thought of eating one of these large lizards. When washed well, these can be cooked as anything you like and flavor is close to fried fish, chicken nuggets, or roast BBQ ribs. Mainly from South Louisiana. For more, see www.klieberttours.com
- Turtle Eggs (Nicaragua): There are many odd foods I have encountered in my travels, the one that stands out the most though is raw sea turtle eggs. They look like a boiled ping pong ball. You make a small rip in the soft shell, maybe add a few drops of hot sauce, and then suck the raw contents down, followed by a shot of rum. The taste of the egg is slightly fishy and not at all pleasant. I ate a dozen one night due to the prodding of the locals. I won't go into detail on how the combination leaves one the next day...
- Iguana (Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Panama): In the Yucatán Peninsula, people eat iguanas (also called "Gallina de Palo" (tree chicken) or "Bamboo Chicken") as if it was some sort of farm animal, or some sort of hunting animal, they hunt it in their own houses or in the forest, there are Iguanas of the size of a dashund dog that live in peoples backyards, In my house there are several of them, Yucatecan People even have a Special Cuisine for Iguanas, cause they have recipes of "How to make Iguana Tacos" and a lot more recipes.
On the Island of Roatan in Honduras, the locals catch and eat iguana. I ran into a worker who was enjoying one for lunch, but was to embarrassed to ask him for a taste. The government is trying to stop the practice.
- Texas Rattlesnake: Sent to us by the Sweetwater, Texas, Chamber of Commerce. The Sweetwater Jaycee's 'World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup' is held each year in March and hundreds of pounds of rattlesnake meat is cooked and served by Chief Chef Corky Frazier." 1. Find and capture a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. 2. Kill, skin and remove entrails. 3. Cut into edible portions. 4. Make a batter of flour, cracker meal, salt, pepper and garlic. 5. Roll your snake portions in the batter. 6. Fry in deep fat, heated to a temperature that will ignite a floating wooden match. 7. Fry until meat is a golden brown. 8. Eat it!
- Tennessee Campfire Snake: 1. Catch, kill, clean, and skin a snake. To clean it, cut around at the neck (in the same place where it would wear a necktie) and then cut down along the belly all the way to the end. 2. Peel the skin off. (You can spread the skin, scale side down, onto the side of the house or on a long plank. Secure it with thumbtacks. Spread a thin layer of salt over it. After a week of sun, it'll be dry.) 3. Cut along into the belly and remove the innards. 4. Cut off the head. 5. Clean and wash. 6. Take a green branch, peel the bark off, and sharpen the tip. 7. Poke the neck onto the sharpened tip. 8. Wrap the snake loosely around the stick. 9. Shake on a bit of salt and pepper. 10. Roast it over a fire. 11. Tastes "just like chicken..."
- Snake (China): The place in HK for snake is Causeway Bay, on HK Island. Queues wait for seats at snake restaurants during snake season. Snakes are served up in a mass of different ways. Then there is the famous 'snake wine'. Served HK style, snake wine uses a spicy concoction which is called 'wine', but its taste is closer to some cranium-lifting hellfire spirit typically conjured up by Judge Roy Bean. Whooo Boy! What makes it snake wine is the snake. A snake is usually tethered from a loop or hook behind the head and left to hang down. Then the chef makes a short cut in the snake's underside to reveal the gall-bladder. Then the gall-bladder is cut open and the gall liquid squeezed out into the glass of 'wine'. Voila - the resulting mixture is snake wine.
Soon after I arrived in Hong Kong to live for a while, I was in a restaurant in Tsun Wan, where they had a special snake menu promotion. Searching through the pages, it read like the Clive Barker of menus. First to catch my eye was "Five Kinds of Snake Soup" which I avoided. I also side-stepped the sea-blubber, fish-lips and suchlike until I came across a very intriguing dish "Braised Raccoon in Traditional Method". Presumably, there is another non-traditional way, such as nouvelle-raccoon! My three Western dining colleagues were as confused as me and we were getting desperate. Then I spotted something 'safe'! Chicken soup. We all ordered it, relieved. When it came though, our hearts sank. The soup looked like cloudy dishwater and the chicken content was only chicken-skin, no meat at all. It wasn't cheating, or the last soup out of the soup-kettle. Chicken skin's what the recipe called for. Eventually though, like a rose growing in the wilderness, a dish was spotted in the menu which we could eat. Lemon chicken. Now, lemon chicken is, according to Chinese people I know, not a traditional dish, but a apparently a modern invention. However, when it came, it was the most wonderful lemon chicken I've ever had. The sauce was sharp and flavorsome, the chicken strips were coated in a crunchy rice-flour batter, which had been then rolled in sliced almonds and fried. Magnificent!
The first time I ate in a harbor sea-food restaurant in the HK territories, I asked for a crab dish. The waiter went to the glass tank behind me and fished one out. He put it in a plastic bag and showed it to me. As it crawled and struggled in the bag, I noticed it had a white barnacle on its top shell, behind one eye. It looked like a cute little hat. Awww - cute little crabby! Then the waiter went off. During this time, I felt a bonding between man and crab and felt a bit sorry that I'd chosen that particular fellow. I told myself they'd actually use another crab for my food! Alas - when the hot, appetizing dish of food arrived, a crab in a spicy sauce with ginger and spring onions [scallions], my heart sank when I saw that barnacle on his little shell. I had murdered my new friend! However, in his memory, he died in a good cause and was totally delicious!
- Snake Blood (Thailand): According to a recent TV documentary this is served freshly-harvested from King cobras, either as a straight cocktail or a mixed drink, for prices ranging up to $USA 200. The blood is supposed to have medicinal and sexual powers.
- Snake Meat (Southeast Asia): In early July 1994, Chinese authorities announced the seizure of five tons of snakes, including many rare and endangered species, destined for restaurant use. They asked that consumers "When you look at the menu, remember the balance of nature." See also rattlesnake.
- Snake Wine (China): A bottle of Chinese wine. With a snake in it. Quite a small snake, obviously, about 6 inches to a foot long. Not a boa or an anaconda or anything like that.
- Lizards (Philippines): These tasty reptiles are about 1 to 2 feet long and are dried and hung up in bunches at rural roadside stalls. They are more popular among ethnic, rural people than city types. I fact, when I worked on a project in Batangas City, security guards cornered a lizard over 4 feet long in a monsoon drain outside my office. They dispatched it and it was strung up, a trophy catch worth a nice bit of cash. I never tried them.