There are countless night markets to explore in Taipei, and it can be tough to decide on which one to go to. The markets are famous for the food that they offer, with dishes ranging from delicious to plain bizarre. On my second night in town, we stumbled upon Huaxi Street Night Market, and more specifically Snake Alley.
I’d been in Asia for less than 24 hours after a long flight from the UK, so at first it didn’t dawn on me that Snake Alley, the most famous part of one of Taiwan’s night markets, would offer me the chance to eat snake. I couldn’t be much further from Warwick.
Huaxi was amazing. We wandered the streets, past kids playing shoot ‘em up style games and street vendors pedalling everything from dried squid to intestines. Everybody seemed to be having a good time too, with locals sat at counters devouring some unknown delicacy and others wandering up and down like us. At one point we accidentally wandered through what must have been the red light district, but even that didn’t feel unsafe.
Eventually we strolled past the snakes. Out the front sat a couple of scaly beasts in cages, one was still alive and the other not so much. The owner stood on the front step of his restaurant, welcoming prospective guests with a half burnt cigarette balanced between his lips.
He brought a tray out to show us what he had to offer. He spoke no English – zero – so at first we had no idea at all what it was. I repeatedly pointed at the snake in the cage, followed by upturning my hands which in my head clearly asked “Is that snake you’ve got in your soup old chap?”. Eventually he said “It snek”. Jackpot.
We did try to ask what was in each of the shot glasses that accompanied our dinner, but that seemed one step too far. When I pointed at the liquid inside the glasses, he shrugged his shoulders, started laughing and walked off.
We sat down, and few minutes later our snake arrived in the middle of the table. At first we just sat there, staring at it, wondering who was going to make the first move. This wasn’t a bar of chocolate we were looking at, it was a bowl filled with what looked like dirty water and four decent sized chunks of snake.
I stepped up to the plate, unwrapping my chopsticks and delving in to the “soup” for a well deserved treat. It kind of looked like a piece of white fish, but clearly wasn’t. I went for it, taking a bite out of the tough, bony chunk that I held between my chopsticks. Well, I tried to at least, realising that this thing was the boniest piece of meat ever. It wasn’t too bad! Very bland, but inoffensive and meaty. I mean, it was as good as a piece of boiled snake meat could be. I bet you want to hop on the next flight to Taipei and try some don’t you?!
I don’t know what I had expected but it wasn’t a piece of meat full of tiny fish-like bones. There wasn’t any squirming, there were no screwed up faces, and no sickness the next morning. It didn’t exactly fill us up though, so after a few snacks around the market we sat down on some plastic stools and devoured probably the tastiest sashimi I’ve ever eaten!