Hong Kong snake kings a dying breedView(s):
Hong Kong (Reuters) – When a king cobra lunges at Chau Ka-ling as the door to its wooden cage falls open in her busy Hong Kong restaurant, she just laughs, then pulls it gently into her arms.
For Chau is a “snake king,” one of scores in Hong Kong who have through generations tamed snakes to make soup out of them, a traditional cuisine believed to be good for the health.
Yet the people behind providing fresh snakes for the savory meal thought to speed up the body’s blood flow and keep it strong in the cold winter months may be doomed, with young people increasingly reluctant to take on a job they see as hard and dirty.
“He is my boss, he supports my living,” said Chau of the snake she cradled at Shia Wong Hip, a popular shop that serves over 1,000 bowls of hot snake soup on the busiest winter days.
Trained by her father in childhood to handle snakes, Chau, now in her early 50s, took over the business he founded, serving up a small bowl of soup for $35 Hong Kong dollars ($4.50).
While soup stalls remain popular, scattered across the former British colony, retail snake shops have diminished to a slithery few, such as the 110-year-old She Wong Lam.
Shop owner Mak Tai-kong, 84, has been working there for 64 years. Over the decades, he has trained about 20 people to become snake handlers – but new blood is hard to find. “There won’t be many. Firstly, it’s crummy and dirty, and snakes smell,” Mak said. “Secondly, the wages aren’t high. So not many people enter the field.”
Mak feels his job is less about making money and more about providing a service to society by keeping a tradition alive.
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