Not many people can say that Dong Ha, Vietnam, is their second home. Nor can many people say that they have traveled to a city like Dong Ha five times. It is one of the most unique places that we have been to so many times. It is no surprise then that when were greeted back to Dong Ha we were invited to eat snake in Vietnam for the first time. Welcome to Dong Ha.
We rode with our friend, Tam, up from Danang that afternoon, a long and dusty almost five hour ride. We arrived in Dong Ha after dark, and later than planned. Although we knew that the plan was a dinner of snake in Vietnam, Eric was not really in the mood to be all that adventurous. Tam, had other plans.
There was a group of travelers and expats in Dong Ha that night, an increasingly more common occurrence as Dong Ha is certainly off the beaten path. We met at Tam’s Cafe, and caravanned over to the snake restaurant, a little out of town, and down a darkened path. Unfortunately (or fortunately in Eric’s mind), the snake restaurant was closed, and it was only 8pm.
I am not sure what happened, but the taxi driver made a phone call. Next thing we knew the family that owned the restaurant opened up the place for our little group, and escorted us back to a cozy private dining room.
Private Dining for Snake in Vietnam
Tam took care of ordering, and a case of Huda beer quickly arrived at the table. We were invited up to the main dining room, and into a little hallway to see the snakes. Technically, it is illegal to serve snake in Vietnam, unless they come from a snake farm. This is why it is very common to see snake restaurants down south, in Saigon. But, in central Vietnam there are no snake farms, so snake restaurants must find their snakes elsewhere, making this experience a little more illicit.
Although we were quickly shown a bag of three snakes to prove that they were providing us a fresh meal, we were not allowed to take photos of the live snakes. And, each time a server came in to the room with a new dish, she continuously said no photos. I know they were just trying to protect themselves, but I snuck a good amount of photos anyway. How often does one get the chance to eat snake in Vietnam? I wanted to capture as much of the process as I could.
Shortly after the fresh snake display, dishes began to arrive, one or two at a time, some of them I enjoyed, and others not so much. Almost all of them were crunchy, with tiny little snake bones littering the dish. We had fried snake skin (the best), snake salad, snake meatballs (least favorite), snake spring rolls, snake sausages, snake wraps, snake soup, and of course, the accompanying drinks.
So Many Dishes of Snake in Vietnam
In addition to the Huda, there was snake blood served in vodka, and even snake bile served in vodka, one bright red, and the other bright green. I was encouraged to drink my bile vodka with the group, which meant that I already had a mouthful of chewy snake. I was told to consider myself lucky, as it meant I didn’t get a mouthful of snake bile. Perhaps.
The experience was, well, certainly that, an experience. It was a fun group of people, most of us strangers to one another. In fact, two girls had just arrived in Dong Ha about an hour before, landing at Tam’s Cafe, looking for a place to stay, and were invited out for a dinner of snake in Vietnam. Perfect timing indeed.
The group enjoyed the meal, for the most part. Everyone was adventurous, although I am not sure I am ready to head back for another snake meal. For Tam, he was proud to show off the restaurant, although he admitted it is not a place he frequents. Instead, maybe he will go once a year, often with a group. I think perhaps I might decline the offer for another dinner of snake in Vietnam if offered again in the future. For me, it was a one and done experience, and one I expected from a visit to Dong Ha.
The dinner of snake in Vietnam costs a little more than $10 per person, including a mess of beer, and the enhanced vodka shots.
For more tips about eating in Vietnam, check out our Southeast Asia Food Guide. Or, looking for a less adventure from a journey through Vietnam? Check out this guide to some amazing Vietnamese waterfalls in Dalat.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.