That Time We Ate Snake

A week or so before we left Shanghai, my friend Michaela suggested she take us to a few of the places she’d visited when she’d taken the Shanghai street food tour. I’m always one for a food tour, so naturally I said yes. We rounded up a few friends, grabbed the stroller, and off we went!

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Michaela had texted us all to bring our adventurous spirits, but I admit, when we arrived at the first stop and saw the live snakes slithering around in a bucket outside, my adventurous spirit fled. I hate snakes. They’re just the worst (it’s no surprise they’re Slytherin’s mascot, amiright??). Most of the gang seemed to feel the same way, but since we’d come all this way, and we were all there to witness one another’s cowardice, we all ate the snake. 😳

We tried to tell the guy that one snake would be sufficient for all of us, but they took one look at the size of our little group (about 8 adults and a smattering of children) and told us we would require three snakes. They grabbed three of the live snakes out of the pile and presented them to us for our approval. I didn’t want to look but … I did want a picture of it, so…

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These are the snakes we ate. He snipped off their heads with scissors. 😱 Then he skinned them and sliced them open all along their long, slithery bellies. One of them turned out to be pregnant, so little baby snake fetuses fell out into the bucket he was butchering them in. It turned my stomach a little bit. The snakes kept wiggling long after they were dead, even after the guy had chopped them into little pieces. Blech blech and blech. Icky. The whole thing was gross to watch but we just couldn’t look away.

Finally, they took the snake away to grill it and we went to the restaurant across the street for more yummies while we waited. One thing I love about China is that there’s this funny camaraderie between neighboring businesses. The snake people said they’d just bring us our dish to the other restaurant when we were ready, and that restaurant had no problem with that, nor did they have a problem when we returned after having eaten, bringing a few dessert dishes with us we’d purchased at a place that didn’t have tables. They let us sit in there again while we ate our desserts, happy to have us there.

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The restaurant itself was pretty dingy, but this was a street food tour, so that was expected. They brought out all manner of seafood – crawfish, and scallops, and eggplant, oh my! One of the guys ran down the street to pick up dumplings for the kids to eat. Sander didn’t want it. He saw something better on the table. Something I’d discarded after eating around the spine that was still in it. A little something that starts with “s” and ends with “ake” and is spelled “snake.”

Yes. My baby ate snake.

Several times over, actually. I think he actually liked it. More than anything else on the table, for sure. And actually, once they’d battered and fried the snake and plated it with some greens and chilies, it actually looked super tasty. And – surprise, surprise – tasted tasty too! I genuinely enjoyed it (as long as I stopped myself from remembering their slaughter of twenty minutes earlier).

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Sander popped a big old piece straight in his mouth. I grabbed it right out, because the bones were still in it. He screamed and screamed until I gave it back to him, instructing him to nibble the edges and keep the bones out of his little baby mouth.

I didn’t try the crawfish – I like fish, but not most other seafood, and I’d already eaten snake so I gave myself a free pass. Terry liked it though, and loved the scallops. (Why are scallops so squishy – whhhhy?!) I loved the eggplants – I never liked eggplant until I moved to China and tried it there. When we left the restaurant, we picked up something called a salt and pepper biscuit, which I very much enjoyed. And the desserts were fun too! Weird squishy pudding type things that at least one of which was naturally purple.

All in all, it was definitely one of the highlights of our time in Shanghai. Not that I’m looking to eat snake again, but, ya know. It happened.