At the mere mention of a snake, most people take to their heels, filled with a justifiable dread of the creepy animals. But on the other side of the divide are people who consider pepper soup made from meat of certain types of snakes a delicacy to die for and never pass up an opportunity to relish it.
You will not find Bright Omoruyi, a dermatologist, among the people who love eating snake meat, because to members of his lineage it is an abomination that is strictly forbidden. But for connoisseurs of the creepy animal, No 8, Alafia Street, Baba Ijebu bus stop in Meiran community, Lagos is a must-visit snake meat peppersoup spot, where they unwind after a hectic day.
As would be expected, debates over topical issues and the performance of European soccer stars take centre stage as the patrons happily munch pieces of well-cooked portions of boa constrictor or python meat, both of which are the snakes of choice prepared by the owners of the joint. Among the Yoruba, these the boa constrictor is known as mono mono.
Providing snake meat pepper soup is not a business for just about anybody or the lily-livered. The primary reason is that it requires a certain expertise to make the dish fantastic for customers. The method of preparation of the dish determines whether customers would accept the outcome.
Sunday Sun learnt from Saidi Oloruntele that some faithful customers come from as far Port Harcourt, Rivers State to the joint. He said: “l have a friend who always comes from Port Harcourt because of this special pepper soup, and some other people from other states as well. I am only aware of two places that this kind of business is being run in Lagos. It is not something anybody can just dabble into because it involves some technical stages in preparing it. The snakes prepared in the place are reared and exported from Cotonou, Benin Republic. The operator of the special restaurant buys them fresh, though already killed. The snake meat pepper soup spot has existed for so many years.”
When the restaurant gets a large quantity of snakes from the suppliers in Cotonou, they are specially sauced and cooked. Thereafter, the cooked meat is preserved by frying and then sun-dried.
Oloruntele further revealed that the woman who owns the restaurant has spent so much time and effort to win the loyalty of her esteemed customers. A plate of the delicacy goes for a token price of N400. The snake pepper soup is usually served hot to the buyers. According to connoisseurs, who spoke with Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity, it is more enjoyable when hot. They further claimed that snake is more delicious and nutritious than other varieties of meat.
One regular patron of the spot, Azeez glowingly affirmed that, “There is nothing with eating snake, it is really delicious. You will enjoy it better when served hot. I will advise you to give it a try and if you do so, you may want to be coming here everyday. Another factor is the way it is prepared here. The woman really knows how to cook the meat. Many people come here in different highclass cars, just to have a taste of it. It is nice and if you try it, l promise you will not regret the taste.”
Another customer who gave his name as Kayode-B said snake meat pepper soup is more affordable when compared to other types of meat or fish pepper soup.
“I do come here occasionally to relax and enjoy myself with the delicious meal. When you come here on Fridays and Saturdays, you will agree with me that snake pepper soup is the best meat for you. People come from Victoria Island, Ikeja, Gbagada and other parts of Lagos, all because of the pepper soup,” he said.
The owner of the eatery, investigation revealed, is smiling to the bank given the level patronage. Customers attribute her success to the way she prepares the pepper soup. They attest to this by showering encomiums on her, stating that she keeps learning and adding one or two spices to make the meat tastier and more appealing to the palate.
Ebipaunmene Chris who has been a patron for sometime said the delicacy was incomparable with other meat. He said: “It is a special kind of animal that has a unique taste, such that when you finish one plate, you still want more of the pepper soup.
On people’s dislike of the snake pepper soup, he offered an explanation: “Basically, people dislike it because it frightens or hurts when alive. Some believe that when they eat it, the animal may still pose danger in their stomach. They are just nursing the fear, but there is certainly nothing wrong with snake meat. This woman is gifted in preparing the pepper soup. God’s gifts come in different ways, and making snake meat pepper soup is her own special gift from God, and it is a worthy one.”
Already, two of the woman’s children have received a portion of her “anointing” and are fast learning from their mother how to make fantastic dishes. Customers who have tasted their dishes swear that the quality is quite good. The children are eagerly positioning for the day when their mother would hang her chef’s spoon and apron to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
“It is a good idea teaching them to take over from her. They are mostly in charge, especially when their mum is not around. They are cool-headed and know how to satisfy customers’ palates,” Chris said.
Like it is said, one man’s meat is another person’s poison. Such is the case with Mr Sunday Chimezie who frowns at the mere mention of snake. He said he could never patronize such eatery for any other thing.
His words: “In my village, it is satanic to eat snake. Among all edible animals, how can someone settle for snake. I understand some people even go further to use their money to buy and eat it. It is unimaginable. Well, one man’s bread, as they say, is another man’s poison. Frankly speaking, for my family and I, it is a no go area.”