Are you looking for unique things to do in Hanoi? Then come to Le Mat’s snake village so you can experience the traditional village and taste their most famous specialty: Snake Meat!
Where is Hanoi’s Snake Village of Le Mat?
Le Mat’s Snake Village is just 5 km northeast from Hanoi Old Quarter. It is a small village of Việt Hưng Ward (Gia Lâm, Hà Nội). From near 900 years ago, the village Le Mat was famous for their traditional catching and snake farming.
Today, Le Mat’s Village is well known for serving delicious dishes made from snakes. Just driving half an hour from Hanoi center, you will find yourself in Le Mat’s Snake Village where snake restaurants are various. The village welcomes thousands of curious visitors (both locals and international) who are craving a uniquely different type of lunch, snake meat!
What to expect in Hanoi’s Snake Village?
+ Live Snakes
You are shown where the snakes are kept. You will also have a chance to see or even hold some snakes (well, it is totaly safe), shown where the cooking takes place and had the privilege of meeting some of local family, before enjoying a feast of local snake delicacies!
Most of the snakes are cobras, arranged in securely closed boxes. Some of them are quite large. In Vietnam, a snake dinner is considered a ‘man’s dish’ and thought to promote strength and virility.
+ Snake Blood and Bile Alcohol
Snake alcohol is quite popular because it is believed to be good for one’s health.
After you choose a scaly snake, it is immediately sliced open and its blood collected for drinking. Minutes later a waiter arrives carrying two glasses: one filled with the snake’s blood, the other with a fluorescent green liquid, the bile.
Both of these ‘beverages’ are cut with rice vodka. There is also a small dish containing the snake’s heart. Just grab the glass of blood, plops in the still-beating heart and after follow locals cheering of ‘Mot, hai, ba!’ (one, two, three), then downs the explosive drink in a flash.
After this initial ritual of chest-thumping machismo, the slaughtered snake is taken into the kitchen. Here, chefs will turn nearly the entire reptile into numerous traditional dishes.
+ Eat Every Part of the Snake
The snake dishes had lots of variety and options and were all very tasty!
Using a variety of seasonings and lots of lemongrasses, the chefs turn out skewers, spring rolls, a salad, a bowl of soup and porridge. Even the skin is grilled.
Although the taste of the snake meat itself is somewhat obscured by the sauces and complementary dishes, its texture is halfway between that of fish and red meat. Truly, snake meat is a unique Vietnamese specialty.
Snake is considered a luxury food in Vietnam. Plan to fork out between VND300,000-600,000 per person for a group of four.
Le Mat Snake Village Fact:
Legend has it that one day while the daughter of King Ly Thai Tong (1072-1127) was on a pleasant boat cruise with her maids on the Duong River, a big snake, which was considered a water monster, overturned the boat and caught the princess.
The crew could do nothing to protect the unfortunate princess. But a young man in the Hoang Family from Le Mat Village dove into the water, fought against the monster and, in the end, succeeded in killing it and saving the princess.
King Ly Thai Tong was deeply impressed by the young man’s feat and gave him a reward of gold and court titles. But the hero graciously rejected the reward and, instead, requested the King allow him and a number of poor people to reclaim land in the areas west of the capital in Thang Long.
As the King gave his assent, the young man led the poor to reclaim their land and established 13 prosperous and famous agricultural settlements in the neighborhood of Thang Long. When the man passed away, the locals honored him as the village’s tutelary god and every year organize a festival to commemorate him.
Following the example of the man, inhabitants in Le Mat began to farm snakes.
Le Mat Village Festival consists of many unique rites and folk activities, such as the water offering ceremony, the snake killing dance – one of the ten ancient dances in the imperial capital of Thang Long—and the rite of catching carp.
The snake catching job in Le Mat village, according to elders here, is a secret handed down from father to son. Together with the snake catching job, there is the snake – raising job and few families in the village make patent medicines for injury bitten by venomous snake. The snake catching job in Le Mat is famous all over regions because Le Mat people usually go to catch snakes everywhere but they don’t hand down the vocation outside. May be, Le Mat is the place where there are number of people who work at catching snake more crowded than anyplace in all over the North delta. Several legends and funny stories of snakes have been being preserved in cultural activities of Le Mat people community.
There are roughly 100 snake-farming households in Le Mat. These farms employ nearly 400 people. As well there are two large specialized farms that breed snakes and produce snake meat. Every day Le Mat receives around 1000 Vietnamese and foreign visitor looking to try this serpentine speciality.
Hard to believe that not long ago the business of snake breeding and meat production almost disappeared. From the 1960s to 1990s snakes around Le Mat were bred for restaurants and pharmaceutical purposes. Then, in 1993, Vietnam ratified the international convention on the protection of wildlife and imposed restrictions on the snake-breeding industry.
Snake meat disappeared from menus. In 2007, aware of the negative repercussions on the local dining economy, Vietnamese authorities granted Le Mat a ‘craft village’ status. On this basis plans for development were drawn to reconcile snake breeding and meat production with increasing tourists eager to sample this most unique Vietnamese dining experience.
How to get to Le Mat Snake Village?
The easiest way to get to Le Mat Village is to jump on city Bus No. 10 to Long Bien Bus Station (VND3000/ticket). From Long Bien it’s only a few hundred metres to Le Mat. Allow 20-30 minutes for bus travel.
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