A Winter Delicacy in Hong Kong, Snakes!

        The winter season brought back amazing foods, such as roasted chestnuts and gingerbread. In Hong Kong, there’s no exception to those foods as well, but another thing that may creep some people out are the abundance of snakes in captivity in no other place than in restaurants!
        Believe it or not, snake is one of the winter staples that many people look forward to eat during the winter months and generally consumed to keep warm. Without central heating and temperatures averaging from 6-15 degrees C would cause people to seek out food for warmth. If you are living in Montreal or New York and  are experiencing a windchill in those scary negative numbers, you are probably laughing at us, but living in a semi-tropical climate, it is something we can never get used to. I won’t go into detail about how these snakes were caught and killed during their months in hibernation, but what I will do is focus on an amazing feast set around this frightening, slivering reptile. Thanks to my cousin, Jennifer, I got to experience it with 11 of her friends! 
         順德公漁村河鮮酒家, Shun De Gong Seafood Restaurant in Kowloon set the scene where a decadent ten course dinner featuring snake as the main attraction. The first course was a stir-fry of snake meat with red peppers, chinese celery, nuts and finished with a sprinkle of white chrysanthemum petals and shredded kaffir lime leaves. As an opening to a large feast, this dish presented with beautiful colors that beckoned me to come taste it. The snake fillets in this stir-fry was a tad chewy and distinctly shaped that resembled meat from a snake.
What did it taste like? You do want me to say chicken, right? ….But to me it was a cross between a chicken and squid or calamari. Not bad! 
         The second dish was a plate filled abundantly with deep fried balls made from a combination of snake, shrimp meat and wood ear then coated with a layer of crispy rice noodles. The texture of these were very fluffy yet had a satisfaction similar to biting into a good sausage with a casing that burst in your mouth. I could eat these all day long, especially with the sweet and sour sauce that it came with. It didn’t take long before the next bowl graced our table. 
         This third bowl was the star of the night, the thick snake soup. It comprised of shredded snake, chicken, pork, wood ear fungus, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. A sprinkle of white chrysanthemum petals also topped the soup next to some shredded kaffir lime leaves and crunchy fried crisps that you sprinkle on your own bowl after it has been divided. If you tried shark fin soup, this soup’s consistency was very similar to it, but a hint of Chinese Angelica Root or 當歸 flavor, lingered in your mouth giving it a bitter hint. Angelica root is a medicine and can be an acquired likable taste to many Chinese people, especially women.   

         The lamb belly pot made its entrance next, which was again a winter only dish. Lamb was another food that the Chinese believed to have warming effects on the body when consumed.  I’m a huge fan of this dish and it was to only have it on the menu during these few months of the year. This was not the best rendition I tasted, but nonetheless, it was pretty good. The fermented tofu and some of the spices were present, but I wish they used more of the star anise and other spices to bring out the best of the lamb. There’s only so little time to seek out the best lamb belly dish, but then there’s always the option of making it at home.
          The lamb belly pot was the end of the winter specialties of this feast, the rest of the dinner had a selection of dishes that are very typical in Cantonese cuisines. There always was some type of fish at dinner and here we had 2 different kinds of Chinese cod prepared 2 different ways. Firstly, a steamed version with scallions, ginger and soy sauce and the other was a deep fried version also tossed with similar ingredients. Both of the fishs’ textures and tastes were phenomenal, I loved and savoured every bite. In Chinese cooking, scallions and ginger are the typical condiments to fish and seafood because nything from the sea was thought to have a cold effect on the body. Scallions and ginger were warming, therefore, the dish was balanced and neutralized with their addition. 

         There had to be some vegetables to dinner and this next dish was of braised mushrooms and bokchoy, but they always found a way to incorporate a little bit of abalone slices on top. The wonderful sauce for this dish is made of from abalone so it was rightfully claiming the throne on top of it all, except vegetarians would have a really hard time eating with us! Hong Kong is largely an omnivorous continent except during those religious holidays where many of us are looking for that vegetarian restaurant around. 
         We’re almost done now, just to top things up with more meat, a whole chicken is served. This chicken was perfectly cooked, the meat was tender and juicy and the flavors were perfect. In fact, I thought that the chicken was the highlight of my night, the thought it made my mouth water, it was just scrumptious from head to toe. We do believe in serving the head and tail together to convey a metaphor where things with a good beginning should always finish with a good ending. 
      At a Cantonese banquet, the carbs always come last, I don’t quite know why they always brought the fried rice or noodles at the end when we did not have anymore space for it. This fried gluttonous rice dish at the end looked great, but I only managed to taste very little as I was anticipating on a very good dessert. Don’t worry, it didn’t go to waste though, we were never shy about doggie bagging leftovers here! 
       Last but not least, the golden cake was served. Do not be fooled, these were not pineapple slices, as they looked very much like them at a first glance. When you looked closely enough, these were mochi-like cakes that were chewy and sweet with hints of coconut and caramel! That was the perfect happy ending. As my Italian friend, Alessandro, said, “These cakes were Buonissiomo!” 
               Thanks for staying tuned, a feast fit for a king was laid out in pictures, writing and now sweet memories for me to revisit, now do some exercise until the next remarkable meal comes around.

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