Friday, February 14, 2020

All Snake Menu

Some friends and we met up in Shum Shui Po for the snake dinner menu at one of the specialty restaurants in the neighborhood - the same group went for another snake meal only a month ago so consider this a sequel to that. Sher Wong Yip (Snake King Yip) is one of the handful shops remained in Hong Kong fully licensed to handle and sell live snakes. During winter months I often dropped by for a comforting bowl of snake soup and sometimes a bowl of sticky rice, another of their signature dish. But this is only my first time trying the more elaborate menu with 10 different courses, most of them cooked using snakes.

The set-up can't get more ghetto, with the kitchen and dining area in the annex of the restaurant, up the flight of stairs in a rundown building behind an unmarked door. We began with the traditional snake soup, prepared with a few different kinds of snakes, meat shredded and bones threw in to the mix, along with black fungus, chicken, pork, ginger, mandarin peel, bamboo shoots and spices, slow-cooked to release the slightly gamey flavor and thickened to bisque consistency. It's served with the usual condiments of kaffir lime leaves and fried dough crackers. It came with generous portion and quality on par of what they serve regularly all year round.

Next to arrive was the lettuce wrap - unlike the conventional version of using pork or chicken or even duck or pigeon, this one has diced snake meat mixed in along with scores of other ingredients such as chicken, water chestnuts, shiitake mushrooms and fried crispy vermicelli shreds. Lettuce was served on the side along with sweet soybean paste. A pair of deep-fried dishes arrived at around the same time. The minced snake meatballs were done with a thin batter and served with a sweet and sour sauce, and then there's the chunks of snake coated with a thicker, crispier batter and served with fried garlic. I felt the snake chunks were a much better version than the one as we had last time with a tastier battered crust and more meaty, but we still prefer the meatballs better – all meat, no bones and with a nice bouncy texture.

Two winter casseroles were served – first the fish maw with “snake belly” using the fattier part of the snake cut in chunks with skin-on and cooked with shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and dried tofu sheet, and then the mountain tortoise braised with pork belly served in a claypot. The best bit of the mountain turtle was definitely those of the “skirt” near to the shell with rich collagen content and soft texture.

Before we ended with another pot of snake soup – this time done in consommé style with dried giant gecko and longan fruit giving it a soothing sweet flavor – we had a few more snake dishes, including vegetables with sauce made of snake broth, poached chicken, and also sticky rice with Chinese dried meat. The portion was so generous that we felt like we had to pack half of those food home.

I brought along a bottle of Brunello, which I thought reach its peak with elaborate fruity flavor and some smoke and wood towards the end. Some of us were daring enough to try the snake bile liquor neat – it’s rustic and strong but I thought there’s a hint of sweet after-taste which I thought was lovely. And before we go, the owner even showed us his pet snake – no we didn’t eat it and actually I thought it’s kinda cute.

When? January 17 2020
Where? Sher Wong Yip, 139 Nam Cheong Street, Shum Shui Po, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Traditional Snake Soup
Drinks? 2010 Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino DOCG "Pianrosso"

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