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Snake Dishes

"When autumn wind kicks up, snakes would ripen." Snake meat is believed to be the tastiest before the snake goes into hibernation; thus, autumn is considered the best season for the consumption of snakes. In mid-autumn, Guangzhou residents would become more particular with their diet, and in autumn and winter, local people generally consume warm foods with tonic effects. Thus, snake meat and mutton frequently appear on dinning tables in Guangzhou. Nicknamed "the animal ginseng", snake meat is believed to be effective in dispelling pathogenic wind, removing bodily dampness, strengthening muscles and bones, stimulating blood circulation, beautifying the complexion, relieving pain, and detoxifying. It is also potent against rheumatism and arthroneuralgia.

According to the Annals of Southern Yue, more than two thousand years ago, barbarians consumed a type of non-poisonous double-headed snakes. Guangdong people have a long history of consumption of snakes, and over the centuries, the dietary and medicinal value of snakes has been established, and people have switched from consumption of non-poisonous snakes to consumption of poisonous ones, from consumption of snake meat to the use of snake galls and snake poison as medications. The Compendium of Materia Medica, written by Li Shizhen during the Ming Dynasty, lists 17 snake medications.

"The Dragon Fights the Tiger" is a prized snake dish comprised of cobra, krait and rat-snake meat mixed with old cat and hen meat. It's also known as "the hodgepodge of the dragon, tiger and phoenix", as the snake, cat and hen have a shape similar to that of the dragon, tiger and phoenix, respectively.

In Guangzhou there are more than 30 snake dishes, which are braised, fried, stewed or baked. Local residents consume snakes at the turn of the autumn and winter, when snakes are considered to be in their best form. People would make a snake dish mixed with chicken, fish, mature ginger, dried tangerine peels, sesame oil, and cooking wine. Some people would have a snake dish at a local restaurant.

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