Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Chinese Wet Markets

 

A cobra is seen in Yang Hangchang’s snake farm in Huzhou, China.

Years ago, my father in law worked as an engineer in Taiwan installing an automated freight handling and storage system for a US airbase. He took lots of video of his time in the far east, especially of the more unusual Chinese customs.

Over the holidays, he visited Hong Kong. Of all the footage he shared with me, the most unusual was of the Hong Kong wet market at night. One scene (that he surreptitiously filmed) struck me. It was of a reptile booth. The proprietor, at the behest of a customer, snatched a long black snake from a large terrarium by the back of the head, and quickly, expertly, skinned it, gutted it and drained it of fluids, blood or spinal fluid or perhaps both. The snake’s body continued to wriggle even after this ordeal.

I expected that the remains of the snake would be seared in a wok with some onions and oil, but no. There were no woks in this booth. The prize here was the snake’s bile and other bodily fluids, about a quarter cup, collected in a glass container and mixed with some kind of Chinese whiskey. Several Chinese men, the buyer and his friends no doubt, downed shots. My father-in-law later inquired and yes, this was likely a highly venomous species. It was a known fact: the more deadly, the more effective. I wonder if it was as effective as say rhino horn, or perhaps, Cialis. In any case, I found the clip to be disturbing on many levels.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Something tells me that wasn’t Chivas Regal.

    • #1
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:55 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Scott Wilmot Member

    Doug Kimball: The prize here was the snake’s bile, about a quarter cup, collected in a glass container and mixed with some kind of Chinese whiskey.

    Years ago when we first started drilling in the South China Sea and I lived in Guangzhou, we went once to the famous snake restaurant in town. One picked one’s snake from a basket of live snakes and then the chef would go through the ritual you describe and everyone would get a shot of blood and bile. The liquor used was Maotai. We also ate the snake. The snake meat was OK, the blood was really salty, the bile was just nasty. The Maotai made them both worse – I don’t know how to describe how awful that stuff was.

    The Qinping Market, across the river from where we lived on Shamian Island, was both a wet and dry market – it had just about everything you can imagine. We would spend hours just wandering through there amazed at what we saw. If I survived that, I think I can survive the ChiComm Virus.

    • #2
    • March 27, 2020, at 12:11 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball: The prize here was the snake’s bile, about a quarter cup, collected in a glass container and mixed with some kind of Chinese whiskey.

    Years ago when we first started drilling in the South China Sea and I lived in Guangzhou, we went once to the famous snake restaurant in town. One picked one’s snake from a basket of live snakes and then the chef would go through the ritual you describe and everyone would get a shot of blood and bile. The liquor used was Maotai. We also ate the snake. The snake meat was OK, the blood was really salty, the bile was just nasty. The Maotai made them both worse – I don’t know how to describe how awful that stuff was.

    The Qinping Market, across the river from where we lived on Shamian Island, was both a wet and dry market – it had just about everything you can imagine. We would spend hours just wandering through there amazed at what we saw. If I survived that, I think I can survive the ChiComm Virus.

    I’m glad you survived.

    • #3
    • March 27, 2020, at 12:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. J Ro Member

    I’ve been outside the “Snake Restaurant” at delivery time when various small trucks and vans arrive to drop off the live snakes.

    Also have dined at a restaurant near a college campus in China, popular with foreign students, where the customer identified the live fish he desired while it swam in a tank. The owner then skillfully plunged his hand and arm into the tank, grabbed the selected fish, pulled it out of the tank, and tossed it through the door onto the filthy floor in the kitchen shouting, “Cook this one!” or words to that affect. Very entertaining, if not appetizing.

    • #4
    • March 27, 2020, at 4:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Dotorimuk Coolidge

    As Paul Harvey used to comment, “It is not One World…..”

    • #5
    • March 27, 2020, at 5:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. DrewInWisconsin, Ham-Fisted Bu… Coolidge

    This is was an enlightening (and stomach-turning) read:

    Time to ban wet markets
    China’s rampant consumption of exotic animals and lack of hygiene standards is far from above criticism

    There’s a recurring flashback from my childhood that never fails to induce a blood-curdling shiver down my spine. My mother’s request for company on her monthly shopping trips to the wet market was always a Hobson’s choice, one I deeply resented because the experience was awful. Deep in the bowels of Singapore’s Chinatown complex was a large open-air market that stood in stark contrast to the surrounding glitzy skyscrapers and immaculate streets. The place was a veritable not-so-little shop of horrors and till today, those horrors remain firmly etched in my memory.

    A distinctly fetid stench greets you long before entering the market; soon it becomes apparent why they’re referred to as ‘wet’. Unidentified fluids, sometimes with ribbons of red swirls, pool around your shoes, draining from the blocks of ice used to keep all the meats fresh. Storekeepers occasionally hose things down in specious attempts to disperse the suspicious-looking liquids, meaning the floor never dries. Live eels and fish slosh around in open tanks perched on prep tables where they’re bludgeoned, gutted and filleted for each customer. I once had the misfortune of standing in the Splash Zone, too close to a fishmonger who was wrestling with and descaling a snakehead (type of fish) while it was still violently flopping and gasping for air. A mixture of blood, water and flecks of fish scale rained upon me like macabre confetti. 

    . . .

    The Chinese preference for wet markets and exotic wildlife has deep social, historical and cultural roots. Around 1960, Chairman Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward led to agricultural collapse and the starvation of tens of millions of people, a trauma that continues to make an indelible print on China’s collective psyche today. For one, it necessitated a scarcity mindset. Under starvation conditions, does it really matter what vessel of bodily flesh was delivering your next caloric intake? Why would you squander any body part? There’s an old Cantonese saying that goes, ‘anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible’. 

    • #6
    • March 28, 2020, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Adriana Harris Member

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball: The prize here was the snake’s bile, about a quarter cup, collected in a glass container and mixed with some kind of Chinese whiskey.

    Years ago when we first started drilling in the South China Sea and I lived in Guangzhou, we went once to the famous snake restaurant in town. One picked one’s snake from a basket of live snakes and then the chef would go through the ritual you describe and everyone would get a shot of blood and bile. The liquor used was Maotai. We also ate the snake. The snake meat was OK, the blood was really salty, the bile was just nasty. The Maotai made them both worse – I don’t know how to describe how awful that stuff was.

    The Qinping Market, across the river from where we lived on Shamian Island, was both a wet and dry market – it had just about everything you can imagine. We would spend hours just wandering through there amazed at what we saw. If I survived that, I think I can survive the ChiComm Virus.

    I also lived in Guangzhou (1999-2001). The wet market was an adventure to say the least. I learned to avoid it on butchering day. Side stepping pig heads in the pathway was something I only needed to experience once.

    • #7
    • March 28, 2020, at 3:03 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    • “If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.” (Prince Philip, at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting)
    • #8
    • March 28, 2020, at 6:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Titus Techera Contributor

    So does anyone know how far back the curiosity about eating wild animals goes in China?

    • #9
    • March 29, 2020, at 12:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Henry Castaigne Member

    Snake is delicious. 

    • #10
    • March 29, 2020, at 4:11 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Roderic Coolidge

    The Chinese culture of wild animal consumption, which they are adamant about continuing, will continue to be a threat to the whole world. It has been a source of new deadly infectious diseases for many years. Obviously, the Chinese government can’t be trusted to deal with this problem responsibly. I think that we ought to adopt the policy of quarantining people who arrive to the US from China for 2 weeks from now on.

    • #11
    • March 29, 2020, at 4:15 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Snake is delicious.

    Tastes like ‘gator, which tastes like chicken.

    • #12
    • March 29, 2020, at 5:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Henry Castaigne Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Snake is delicious.

    Tastes like ‘gator, which tastes like chicken.

    I think that ‘gator’ is better than chicken. 

    • #13
    • March 29, 2020, at 6:10 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Another anecdote: three summers ago I was assigned the task of evaluating an operation in Denver that was losing money. Yes, I was the hatchet man. Being the hatchet man is a lonely existence. You are treated like the spectre of death; conversations stop when you enter a room and return in hushed tones when you leave. When folks leave for lunch, you are ignored. You become the topic of constant conversation, but conversations you will never hear. This was my burden.

    I stayed at a local large hotel, nine floors of at least 30 rooms, a Comfort Inn or one of its ilk. It was popular with the marijuana tourists and buses of foreign tourists on National Park circuits. There were a couple of these tours that catered to Chinese nationals. This hotel provided a breakfast buffet, which was of course, horrible, reconstituted eggs masquerading as scrambled, half frozen tiny muffins, cold cereal, fruit, yogurt cups… You get the picture.

    Early one morning well before the mad rush on free breakfast, I saw some hotel people assembling little box breakfasts, a small carton of OJ, a package of little Debbie coffee cakes, an apple, a banana. I inquired. No, those were not for the “regular” guests. They were for the Chinese bus people. You see, the hotel initially allowed these bus tour people to graze away in the free buffet, but they quickly learned that this was not advisable. A busload of Chinese nationals would wipe out the entire buffett in minutes. They would take every orange, banana, yogurt cup, slice of bread, english muffin, tiny fake blueberry muffin, every single thing, even the nasty reconstituted eggs and the dried out chips of ham that no one else touched. I don’t know where they put all this stuff but I know they could not possibly have eaten it all. It probably traveled back with them to China at the end of their tour.

    In any case, the hotel started providing the breakfast boxes.

    After one trip to the breakfast buffet, I decided coffee would do; maybe an apple for later if any were left.

    I also learned that in places where you have no choices and where everything is limited, you take everything the government is willing to give you, even if you don’t really need it.

    • #14
    • March 29, 2020, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. Suspira Member

    DrewInWisconsin, Negative Infl… (View Comment):
    A distinctly fetid stench greets you long before entering the market; soon it becomes apparent why they’re referred to as ‘wet’.

    Can anyone confirm this is why it is called a “wet market”? There has been much talk of wet markets and no explanation that I found. I’ve been wondering for weeks now.

    • #15
    • March 29, 2020, at 3:58 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. CACrabtree Coolidge

    I try to not spout off any of my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), but sometimes I think someone should go over to China and read off the verses of Leviticus pertaining to dietary habits in every wet market they have.

    • #16
    • March 29, 2020, at 4:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. DrewInWisconsin, Ham-Fisted Bu… Coolidge

    Suspira (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Negative Infl… (View Comment):
    A distinctly fetid stench greets you long before entering the market; soon it becomes apparent why they’re referred to as ‘wet’.

    Can anyone confirm this is why it is called a “wet market”? There has been much talk of wet markets and no explanation that I found. I’ve been wondering for weeks now.

    I assume it’s because they’re literally wet with the bodily fluids of eviscerated animals.

    • #17
    • March 29, 2020, at 4:06 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Titus Techera Contributor

    DrewInWisconsin, Negative Infl… (View Comment):

    Suspira (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Negative Infl… (View Comment):
    A distinctly fetid stench greets you long before entering the market; soon it becomes apparent why they’re referred to as ‘wet’.

    Can anyone confirm this is why it is called a “wet market”? There has been much talk of wet markets and no explanation that I found. I’ve been wondering for weeks now.

    I assume it’s because they’re literally wet with the bodily fluids of eviscerated animals.

    It’s not that, it’s the water they have to keep splashing, spraying, &c. to do away with all of it.

    • #18
    • March 29, 2020, at 11:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. DrewInWisconsin, Ham-Fisted Bu… Coolidge

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Negative Infl… (View Comment):

    Suspira (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Negative Infl… (View Comment):
    A distinctly fetid stench greets you long before entering the market; soon it becomes apparent why they’re referred to as ‘wet’.

    Can anyone confirm this is why it is called a “wet market”? There has been much talk of wet markets and no explanation that I found. I’ve been wondering for weeks now.

    I assume it’s because they’re literally wet with the bodily fluids of eviscerated animals.

    It’s not that, it’s the water they have to keep splashing, spraying, &c. to do away with all of it.

    Or both!

    • #19
    • March 30, 2020, at 5:51 AM PDT
    • 1 like