Anyone for crocodile?

If you're after an award-winning meal with a bite, head down south to a Taiwan eatery that specializes in crocodile.

20 Jul 2007

Kao Ching-chuan and his brother Kao Ching-Chou have worked at the family-owned, upmarket Hai Wang Shing restaurant in the southern port city of Kaohsiung for the past two decades, serving up crocodile hide, claws, tails, meat and innards.

Crocodile soup is the most popular item on the menu. Dishes start at $50 and the crocodile is usually served up on huge platters, surrounded by green leafy vegetables.

"There is a variety of ways to cook crocodiles," said Kao Ching-chuan. "Everything from head to tail and the internal organs is edible, and at international culinary competitions, we win major awards every time."

Crocodile meat, which either tastes of fish or chicken, is eaten in many parts of Asia and the restaurant sells about 600 kg of it a month.

In April in Beijing, capital of a country known for putting almost any kind of animal on a plate, the Kao crocodile creations were awarded a gold medal.

The restaurant gets its meat from local farmers who raise spectacled caiman crocodiles. When the animals are between two and three years and weigh about 30 kg, they are slaughtered.

While a crocodile's thick skin usually goes toward wallets, purses and belts, the Kao brothers say they have made it edible, crispy and even nutritious, especially for women.

"It has a fish-like texture with crispy skin, tastes really good," said Cheng, a regular at the restaurant.

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