Braving Shanghai's snake hot pot restaurant
From nose to tail, Chinese cuisine has long featured dishes that use all parts of all types of creatures.
The southern province of Guangdong is especially known for its peculiar food culture. Extreme cases are monkey brains and a recent report of braised koala.
In Shanghai, a visit to hot pot restaurant Jin Long She (金龙蛇) confirms that China’s most sophisticated city is no slouch when it comes to adventurous eating.
Snake hot pot in Shanghai
Jin Long She’s draw is snake hot pot.
In some parts of China, consumption of the slithering reptile is thought to increase male virility. And while female diners at Jin Long She (literally, Gold Dragon Snake) are welcome, they should be advised that dining here means being subjected to shameless though lighthearted sexual innuendo.
The restaurant also serves rabbit, pheasant and goose, depending on the season.
A sense of occasion energizes any event in which you see your dinner moving just minutes before mealtime.
“I didn’t eat meat for seven years because I couldn’t in good conscience eat something I wouldn’t kill myself," explains Shanghai resident and lapsed vegetarian Harley Jobb. "But I’ve had a fear of snakes as long as I can remember, so game on.”
Snake, hare and goose
Jin Long She general manager Philip Lee (李菲) is a jovial host.
“While most of our clientele are Chinese, we get a lot of Russians and Germans,” says Lee. “In fact, we were recently featured on a German television show.”
Lee helped us select some of the most popular dishes.
After an aperitif of snake-head liquor (蛇头酒, RMB 218 for a 500ml bottle), we munched on braised snake uriah shaw (卤水蛇段, RMB 58), a dish redolent of KFC chicken, with a beef jerky texture.
With appetites aroused and our burbling snake bone hot pot soup base (龙骨清汤, RMB30) in front of us, we started cooking.
Uriah shaw (乌梢蛇, RMB68 per plate), a common non-poisonous snake in China, was chewy and took on the flavor of the hot pot, like a sort of serpent tofu.
This was rounded out by strips of lean meat from hare (野兔, RMB58 for 500g) and wild goose (鹅, RMB95 for 500g); the latter was shot with a large dose of baijiu before having its neck wrung, presumably to ease its transition into the next world.
Our hot pot was accompanied by bottles of beer and, more interestingly, cups of snake blood and cocktails of snake bile and baijiu (off menu and available upon request).
King cobra (五步蛇, RMB288 for 500g) and copperhead, grandly called by its Latin name Agkistrodon (眼镜蛇 RMB488 for 500g), were unavailable on the day of our visit.
Both snakes appear on the menu and can be simmered in broth. Those who wish to drink king cobra or copperhead broth are advised to provide the restaurant at least two or three hours warning.
Alternative dining experience
It's true -- snake tastes like chicken.
Cooked in a hot pot, the texture of snake can be slightly rubbery, while the braised version evokes the fried chicken of the U.S. South.
Snake hot pot seems unlikely to become the latest trend in Shanghai’s ever-fickle dining scene, but Jin Long She provides an interesting change of pace for mainstream diners.
Jin Long She Restaurant (金龙蛇餐厅)
26 Wuxing Lu 26, near Huaihai Zhong Lu
+86 021 6466 6918
11 a.m.-3 a.m.