After "meeting the snakes", and a couple of shots of snake wine and tea, we were dropped off via motorbike back at the restaurant. The Missus and I decided to go ahead and have our "9 courses of snake". Even though it seemed somewhat touristy, you only live once, right?
We had also invited Hung, our Driver, and Huong(who couldn't make it)...we had noticed that most times Drivers and Guides and their customers would part ways during meal times...the Tourists usually having a hearty meals, and the Guides would just wait, hang out with other guides, or run errands.....we wanted to reverse that notion, and made it a point to eat with our drivers and guides as much as possible, what better way to learn about the place you're visiting!
Soon enough various garnishes, were brought out including the salt-chili-lime dip, some really pungent, but delicious nuoc mam(fish sauce), herbs so fresh and full of life...they almost shone in the sun.
Some rice crackers....
And pickled figs, a nice palate refresher......
More snake wine of course(not as good as what we had just had), rice wine with black bee(strange medicinal-honey flavor), and one bottle that looked like chop suey lizard, snake, and other "stuff".....pretty nasty stuff. Of course this was the one I was told would "make you strong", usually a good sign of something that would want to make you scrub your tongue with a brillo pad after consuming it......
And of course, you could not proceed without....
A glass of blood, which tasted of rice wine, but left a weird coating on my tongue, and bile which was a bit astringent, but tasted mostly of alcohol. Eat, Drink, & Be Merry has a nice post on "snake shots" in Taiwan.
There was one last piece of business....
When they brought the Cobra Heart out, it was still bouncing around a bit....the Missus decided that She wanted it, and I had no problem with that. She chugged it down with
a shot two shots of snake wine.
First course - A Hot and Sour Soup.
There are several different types of sour......this was an example of what I can only call "dead fish sour". It was terrible; I started having doubts......
When the next course arrived, snake meat roasted in betel leaf.
A classic "La Lot" (rolled in betel leaf dish), much like what you'd order in most places with Beef. The snake meat was very mild (tastes like chicken anyone?), which amplified the sweetness of the betel leaf. Very nice.
Stir fried(Xao Lan) snake:
The snake was tough as heck in this dish...uninspired.
Snake egg rolls:
Yes, another classic preparation....these were fried perfectly, and in this case the slight chewiness of the snake meat was a plus. Other than that, not much flavor.....but hey it's fried!
Another bland, "tastes like chicken" dish.
Deep Fried Snake Skin:
Topped with some dill, and dipped into nuoc mam....chicharron ain't got nothin' on this dish!
Roasted snake meat:
Not bad....texture like chewy, grilled eel...in fact the fish sauce in this dish made it even taste like a mild eel-chicken in flavor.
Minced snake bone:
This was excellent...went through 2 servings of Rice Crackers! Crunchy texture like roasted rice.....nicely flavored!
Chinese-style medicinal snake soup:
Tastes exactly like it's description...........medicinal soup....
Dessert, which I was so full and never tried......
All in all, a really nice experience, even though much of it does "taste like chicken".....the visit to Quoc Phuong Ecological Farm, and Mr Huong's hospitality made it worthwhile.
And at $10/US a person, I'd say it was, at least to us, a fun experience. After lunch we wanted to make sure and thank Mr Huong; so we walked back to the farm, and made sure to thank him in person. As we were leaving he gave us a signal to wait....grabbed on old vodka bottle, which he rinsed out, and proceeded to fill from his stash of snake wine. Never underestimate the power of "Thank You!"
The last stop on our little day trip was the ceramic village of Bat Trang.
Though Le Mat and Bat Trang are but a few kilometers out of Hanoi, it's amazing how different they are from Hanoi....so peaceful, relaxed, and quiet.
But the relaxed vibe disguises the really hard, tough work that goes on in Bat Trang.
Working the kiln of Bat Trang is heavy, hot, and hard work.
There are a number of shops along the road....
Selling all types of ceramic products
Some ultra mass produced, others looking a bit higher in quality....
We walked down an alley, and right into a workshop.
Right up close and personal...
Meanwhile, the Missus had found something that had caught Her attention. This woman, who we'll call "smiling eyes" (when we entered the workshop, you could tell she gave us the biggest smile, even though she had a mask on), was working at her station....she could crank out her pieces at an amazing rate.
Seeing that the Missus was interested, she gave Her a quick lesson...
Then it was the Missus's turn....amazing...from the audience to the production line in minutes! Only in Vietnam!
Everytime the Missus would do something that would potentially mean a few missing digits, Smiling Eyes would come quickly to the rescue while emitting a high pitch "oh-oh-oh".....
Using the "3 strikes rule", after the Missus ruined 3 pieces, She decided to leave this work to the pros!
Plus we were dog tired....
On the way back to our Hotel, Mr Hung stopped at Cafe Hao, and bought us some coffee. Nothing like Vietnamese coffee culture....a cup can last several minutes, or several hours depending on your mood.
His way of thanking us for lunch. This version was the best I had on our trip. It seems we had come full circle, the day started with a cup, and ended with a cup! Now I'd say that's a productive day!