Nope its not some headline that leads to a joke, and it was me not Paddy who cooked the snake…
On my last trip to Cambodia, an opportunity arose for me to cook something I never cooked before or eaten for that matter. As a chef, I pride myself in trying everything at least once. I had just finished preaching at a church in a small village about 25 minute drive from Sisophon in the northern part of the country.
Freshly caught, snakes are not normally something that I’d consider particularly appetizing, not by the look of them anyway. I am also think I have a forward-thinking approach to food. After all, if Bear Grylls, can eat snake at the 109th Annual Gala of the Explorers Club, then so can I.
thats Rornh in the picture at the back of his house where the snake was caught
In any case on my return to West Waterford, Ireland, I wanted bragging rights to have cooked and eaten snake…… As you have guessed by now, snake meat is hard to come by in Ireland, especially after St Patrick got rid of them all.
With the aid of Rornh Ran, the local pastor, of this mountain village, we set to work. Thankfully I didn’t have to kill it, but took over from there.
I was comforted by the fact that snake has long been a delicacy (or as I have learned, if we catch it we eat it) in large swaths of Southeast Asia. In Hong Kong, for example, Cantonese snake soup is lauded for both its nutritional and medicinal properties. Curiously, the Internet offers up some slim pickings when it comes to python recipes.
Back to Cambodia, snake has been skinned and would be hard to tell the difference between that and an eel to the common Irishman. Yep full of little bones too. So with my posh kitchen upbringing, I had to show off and fillet it a little more.
Then into a simple marinade with Rice Paddy Herb, Galangal, Kaffir Lime, Asian Coriander, lemongrass & sugar, leaving to sit for 2/3 hours in this mix.
A little insight into Khmer food…..In Cambodia spice usage is less dominant than in neighbouring Thailand. Many visitors to Cambodia describe the country’s cuisine as more subtle and flavoursome than Thai food.
Back to the cooking. Wok on, oil in to smoking hot and snake was fried till cooked through. To be honest, it was the toughest, most sinewy meat I’ve ever tasted. Chewing it was akin to chewing bubble gum. Thankfully, Rornh had just picked some fresh jackfruit from a tree in his garden, which was magnificent in flavour, taking away any taste of snake from out mouths.
Perhaps it was just my inferior snake cooking skills, our that I come from a non-serpent eating culture but Snake isn’t something you eat because it tastes good, it’s something you eat because it tastes adventurous, and it says something about you if you’re willing to try it. (I can attest to this; a week later, and I’m bringing up my python cooking adventure anytime I can possibly fit it into the conversation…..
Check back next time when I cooked up some mudfish……