A line of customers stands patiently outside a nondescript shop in the Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district. In the northwestern section of the Kowloon peninsula, Sham Shui Po is one of Hong Kong’s most authentic neighbourhoods. This shop is brightly illuminated, thanks to a row of fluorescent lights embedded in the ceiling – highlighting the shop’s jumbled mess. The walls are plastered with coloured pieces of paper filled with Chinese symbols. The shelves on either side of the shop’s walls hold an odd assembly of plastic bags, jars, utensils and bottles. But despite the shop’s dishevelled appearance, the laminated topped tables and chairs crammed into its small interior are filled with patrons eating something steaming hot from small bowls.
What’s in them I wonder?
Curious, I stop to peer into a perspex box at the front right of the store. Like the walls of the shop its also covered in various pieces of paper. Above the Chinese characters are two words in English: snake soup. The box’s front is scratched and filthy, making it difficult to see the contents. Finally, I make out the body of a snake curled up next to a small tree branch, lying on top of old pieces of newspaper. This is the ‘snake tank,’ the drawcard of Shia Wong Hip, a ‘restaurant’ famous in Hong Kong for its snake soup.
I am with my friend Josephine, a Hong Kong local, who asks if I feel like trying snake soup, saying she enjoys eating the warming broth. Not being the adventurous food type, I decline her suggestion. I ask Josephine what she likes about snake soup. “It’s a soothing comfort food for the Hong Kong Chinese to eat, especially during winter,” she said. “We aren’t able to make this kind of soup at home, so there is always a market for customers who love snake soup.”
I’m guessing not too many people have access to a steady supply of live snakes at home!
If you’d like to read my story published in Air Niugini’s in-flight magazine please download the PDF via this link: Paradise Air Niugini in flight magazine May 2018 pp96-97 SnakeSoup story