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Snake Stew

Unusual Ingredients

Snake Stew
3 to 5 snakes
1 roast duck
1 chicken, freshly killed preferred
4 dried scallops, cleaned and soaked in one cup of water until soft
8 medium-size dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, stems discarded, and cut into thin slivers, reserving the mushroom water
3 pounds fresh bamboo shoots
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
dash of white pepper
2 Tablespoons corn oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 stalk freesh coriander, cut into one-inch lengths
2 scallions, washed, slivered lengthwise, then cut into one-inch lengths
2 Tablespoons water chestnut flour
3 lemon leaves, rinsed and cut into thin slivers
3 big fresh white or yellow chrysanthemums (see note below), washed and petals pulled out
5 or more soft tortilla chips, sliced and fried for one minute in two tablespoons corn oil
1. Skin the snake, then separate snake meat and bones and put the bones into a cheesecloth bag.
2. Bone the duck and separate the meat, bones, and skin. Discard all fat.
3. Skin the chicken. Leave meat on the bones, and discard all visible fat and skin; then cut into four large pieces if it does not fit into the soup pot.
4. Put the chicken, duck bones, and snake bones into a pot of cold water and boil for ten minutes. Discard the water and soak the rest of the ingredients in cold water for ten minutes, then discard this water. This is the 'Crossing the cold river' process spoken of in the Souper Soup article in this issue.
5. Add three quarts of cold water to the chicken mixture, the dried scallops and their water, and the mushroom water. Bring all of this to the boil then simmer for two hours.
6. Remove chicken and bones, discard the bones or use again another time and separate the chicken meat aside.
6. Prepare the bamboo shoots by peeling them and removing all fibrous material, especially the ends. Boil a quart of water and add the salt and the bamboo shoots and boil this for ten minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. The shoots should be ivory. If any part is yellow, taste and if bitter, discard that part. Cut the cooked shoots into slivers and set aside. You will only have about one pound of good quality crispy shoot slivers.
7. Shred duck meat, scallops, and chicken meat and mix with soy sauce. Add cornstarch and white pepper and mix well. Also shred snake meat, but set that aside separately.
8. Heat wok and add the corn oil and garlic and cook only half a minute until the garlic starts to turn brown. Add snake meat and toss for a few seconds then add the other meat mixture and stir-fry one minute before adding the cilantro and scallions slivers.
9. Add the reserved Souper Soup made in this recipe one ladle at a time until there are equal amounts of meat and soup. Reserve the rest for another use.
10. Mix the waterchestnut flour with half cup of cold water and stir well before adding it slowly to the wok. Stir until it thickens. Serve in one large bowl or in individual bowls for each diner.
11. Mix lemon leaves, chrysanthemum petals and tortilla crisps and each diner can add some to own to their bowl of stew.
Serves 8 to 10
Note: I use the ones called 'crabs legs' in Chinese.

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