In the open markets of Ho Chi Minh you will encounter bottles stuffed full of micellaneous local fauna such as snakes, armadillo, turtles, scorpions and lizards, all preserved in rice wine or grain alcohol, called rượu rắn in Vietnamese. Some varieties consist solely of snake, others are made with geckos or sea horses. The tincture is taken in small shots as a restorative. Snakes are widely believed to possess medicinal qualities and the wine is advertised as a cure-all, addressing everything from farsightedness to hair loss, as well as to increase sexual performance. Some believe these claims may exaggerated to attract buyers. However, the beverage definitely stands up to the test of history.
Rượu rắn was first recorded to have been consumed in the Western Zhou Dynasty (771 BC) and has since been considered to be an important curative. It can be found throughout China, Vietnam and other areas of Southeast Asia. the medicinal use of snakes was noted in the medical manual Shen nong ben cao jing (神农本草经) compiled between 300 B.C. and 200 A.D.