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Lizards and Liquor

by Helen Chen

Unusual Ingredients

Summer Volume: 2000 Issue: 7(2) page(s): 7

In Chinese medicine and folklore, the lizard--and there are several species, the one I am familiar with is gecko Linnaeus--is endowed with heat energy or qi which can transform a simple liquid into a powerful elixir capable of restoring health and preventing disease. The ancient Chinese counterpart to Viagra, this Linnaeus is frequently administered to men to restore their virility. Not for men only, persons of both sexes can benefit from this liquor which is also used to ward off colds, protect the lungs and kidneys and even prevent asthma.

Also known as 'Tokay' in some regions of China and as geije in Chinese, these lizards are sold and popular in snake shops in Hong Kong and Taipei, alive or pickled. This reptilian fellow is also commonly found in herbal pharmacies throughout China. Most often, they are dried, then powdered for use in making pills, powders, or medicinal wines. Here in the United States, the powdered form is most readily available, and according to at least one Chinese pharmacopoeia, three to six grams should be a sufficient dosage. For those who are purists, preferring the live animal to the powdered type, Andy Cheng, owner of C&C laundromat in Bayside, Queens provides us with the following recipe to prepare lizard liquor you will need:

2 live lizards, and a
1 liter bottle of 75 proof alcohol

These animals must be live because only live lizards will impart qi. Also, you must use two lizards at a minimum per bottle; more if you can catch them. The reason the alcohol must be more than seventy-five proof is for the proper alchemy to take place.

To make this liquor, drop the lizards into the alcohol. Secure the bottle with a cork or a top that screws and can be tightly shut and store it in a cool, dark place. The basement will do. For how long? Well, the longer it is stored, the more potent it becomes. How much to ingest? Drink two ounces nightly. You should begin to see results after only a couple of weeks. When the bottle is halfway empty, top it up. It is not necessary to constantly make a new batch.

Lizards, Andy says, are hard to come by in China and even harder to catch. That being the case, he advises that many people substitute newborn mice for them. In the countryside of Shanghai, where he is from, it is common practice to round up these rodents when they are newborn and their eyes still closed. if their eyes are open, he says they believe that the qi cannot be captured. The recipe for mouse elixir is the same as that for the lizard variety, four or five mice generally used per liter. This alcoholic variety is believed to have the same properties. Andy advises that this recipe is preferred because mice are abundant in rural areas of China. One word of caution, however, do not drink the lizard elixir at the same time as the mouse liquor or it will act like a poison and may kill you.

No time to catch lizards or mice? Sandi, Andy Cheng's daughter and a second generation Chinese-American, acknowledges that today's modern Chinese and Chinese Americans are relying more and more on vitamins and minerals and modern pharmaceuticals. So, if mice and lizards are not your thing, visit the nearest health food store. And, remember one day when you least expect it, you may be offered a shot of a potent reptilian juice as Helen Rich and her companion were as detailed in the Three Cultures, One Restaurant article in this issue. Accept it graciously knowing that you are being treated as the most honored of guests.
Helen Chen, following in the footsteps of her mother, Joyce Chen, is the author of 'Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking' and many recipe booklets. Like her mom, she designs and sells Joyce Chen products. For information about her books and the cookery and culinary products, write to her at: 6 Fortune Drive, Billerica MA 01821.

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