Folk Recipe/Legend – Vietnam

Folk Recipe/Legend- Poisonous Snake Drink, Vietnam

Joayn, who was born in Vietnam but grew up in San Francisco, had something very interesting to tell me about a delicacy in Vietnam.  Supposedly, it’s an honor for people to take you out to a restaurant that serves snake meat. It’s like taking someone out for lobster or filet mignon here. There’s something about the snake that fascinates them. They believe that putting dead poisonous snakes in some kind of alcohol — rice wine, whiskey, etc has tremendous medicinal benefits, especially regarding sexual health. So it is said that drinking it supposedly works like Viagra for men and even helps as an aphrodisiac. She said that most Vietnamese people probably don’t believe it, but enough do for it to be sold in a lot of markets and served in restaurants. I guess the proteins that make up the venom are destroyed when exposed to alcohol so people don’t die when they drink it. They use pythons, cobras, or any small snakes that fit in bottles. Sometimes multiple snakes or other creatures like insects, spiders, or turtles go in there too.  I asked her if this was served only during specific times of the year, but she said it could be found all the time.  Even though her father told this story to her, she isn’t so sure its true.  When I asked her more about it, she said, “I think this is pretty much a myth, and thought to be true because of some ancient belief in snakes as creatures with special powers or meaning. And recently its medicinal purposes are just exaggerated as a way to market the stuff to superstitious people and brave tourists”.

Joayn’s analysis of the delicacy and it’s effect on sexual health was quite extensive.  I think she hit the nail directly on the head when she talked about why its medicinal purposes are exaggerated.  It seems this is a way for tourists to connect with what is “truly” Vietnamese.  If they think that Vietnamese people actually eat this snake meat regularly, they are more inclined to try it.  It is something that helps business for the locals, and also helps tourists belong.

There is one more theory I have as to why Vietnamese people might market this as a sex aid.  I believe that they want to be known as having a lot of culture and not succumbing to the advances of the western world.  This kind of delicacy helps them in tourism and keeps their sense of identity as a very cultured and smart people that can find natural cures to real life problems.

Also, whether the locals actually partake in the eating of this “delicacy” or not, it makes it seem as if they are different from the rest of the world.  It connects Vietnamese people with tourists while allowing them to never forget their ancestry.