February 28, 2010

The Night of the Monitor Lizard

It was fairly dark by seven without the moon in the sky. I was a little scared when my guard dogs formed a circle around some kind of animal in the garden. However I could figure out that it was smaller than my smallest dog. It was not wriggling or standing up so I knew that it could not be a cobra.

By the time the dogs sensed my  presence they had already killed what I thought was a small sawa or ripon( python). It turned out to be a small monitor lizard. This was the first time I actually had a minotor lizard in my garden. Usually I would see them near the river banks (either side) when I stand by my kitchen sink and they would slither away when I made some noise. Or when the neighbours' dogs pick up its scent they would start barking and the intelligent reptile would remain still for a while. Monitor lizards usually come around at about 11 in the morning when they know that the housewives could be killing a chicken or have some food remnants thrown out in the drains. But I have never met a monitor lizard at night!

Foochows have always enjoyed having monitor lizard soup. It would be very simply cooked. Slice ginger and stir fry it for a while and when the ginger is browned pour in one bowl of Foochow red wine and let it boil. When it has boiled add two bowls of hot water.

When the soup is boiling hot throw in the slices of monitor lizard. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is the Foochow style of cooking this reptile and I have eaten it once or twice in my life. Many of my relatives who grew up in the Rajang River villages would remember stories of having monitor lizard for supper. So here you are some pictures of my encounter with a monitor lizard.

Reptiles are not really on my food list. However as Foochows and many Chinese believe that this soup will do wonders to one's skin we should consider ordering it every now and then. Or if you have a chance to shoot one in the mangrove swamps you should get someone to clean and cook it for you.

As for this dog bitten very unlucky monitor lizard I had it wrapped up in a few plastic bags and thrown into my wheelie bin for the MMC to take away. If thrown back into the river the carcass would stink sky high for a few days should it get stuck on any part of the river bank.

It was quite a night for me and my brave mongrels with Bubba as captain.


Bengbeng said...

You should be proud of yr dogs. But you needn't had thrown the meat away. Perhaps you could have considered cooking it for your dogs. It used to be easily available but is getting to be more rare a sighting like this

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
I am sure proud of my dogs even though they are not Golden Retrievers or Rottweiller.....Bubba is a faithful dog and always accompanies me wherever I go. And he loves walking with me.

No I don't think I can skin a monitor lizard in the night and make the dogs supper. Thank you!!

I should have called friends to eat the monitor lizard but it was late...and CNY period again...

Ah Ngao said...

In the late 80's,you still legally buy exotic meat like pythons,monitor lizards or terrapins(labi) at our local weekend market,Satok in Kuching but not now.Got to be careful when handling or catching these big lizards becoz the saliva at the teeths are poisonous.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ah Ngao
Exotic meat was openly sold in Miri too until early 90's. And one could buy a good bowl of snake meat soup in some famous outlets even. Sometimes you can still find a few snakes for sale in the open air market sold by hunters. But it is very very rare indeed.

Thanks for the pointers. I find slaughtering any animal very painful so don't do it at all . Not even chicken. But I will eat a chicken egg.

fufu said...

wow wow wow.... monitor lizards... i saw many of them when i was in sapi island, sabah =p they are cute :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Fufu
Nice of you to visit...What is Chap Goh Mei like in Frankfurt?

Have you visited the Teddy Bear Museum? Take a few photos for me ...See the legacy left behind by Margarete Steiff.


William said...

I saw many of this thing around my area here and so far none had turn up dead due to dog.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi William

Nice of you to visit...may be you need four brave dogs like mine.

Or monitor lizards don't invade your private territory!! Dogs are very territorial conscious definitely. Monitor lizards not welcome. Tresspassers will be killed in dog bow wow!

In my cousin's garden a few years ago whenever one appears and the husband was ready with his shot gun the monitor lizard was a goner especially big ones.

My brother was visiting at that time so they had a good meal. According to my aunt the soup is good for anyone with "boils" problem. I do believe that.

Ann said...

Ah ya!!!!!!1 Why you wasted your 4 legged snake? Should have boiled in with peanuts or black bean soup. LOL

When we were living at Embang road, the house opposite your aunty's house. Before the surrounding houses were built. It was an abandoned rubber garden.

We kept lots of chicken and ducks, in a giant chicken hut. Mum discovered her ducks were missing. Dad built a big box trap, and you can't imagine how many 4 legged snakes we caught. It was a pity we didn't think of curing the skin and make belts or bags.

We ate everything, skin and all. My Ah Kung was quite an incredible man,. He was scared of snakes including the 4 legged ones. Yet he prepared and cooked them for us.

Towards the time when Maggie moved to their house, a monkey came to the rubber gardens. We tried to trap it but in vain. It was so smart. You leave the banana outside, it comes to take it. It even would take it from your hand. But it would never get into the trap. One day, a man came with a gun. Then I left Sibu. I don't know if the man shot it.

Going back to my Ah Kung. Every time we caught a monitor lizard, he would hope that it was the monkey. Then cressfallen, he proceeded to slaughter the 4 legged snake.

In my husband's village, there are a lot of palm oil, there are a lot of monitor lizards basking in the sun. But now, my husband has weaned me off eating exotic meat.

Still, I asked why people not eat the monitor lizards, they answered my passion for environmental issue.

Rats eat oil palm kernels, man poison rats, monitor lizards eat poison rats, IF man eat poisoned lizards, man get poisoned. ( Did I write this before)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
Nice of you to give me more details of your home life in Embang lane. It must have been very exciting then to live next to a rubber garden....I love listening to the cracking of the seeds...and then the popping!! I become very homesick just remembering it. And it has been years!! Some memories are just too sharp.
By the way Mum went to Singapore to celebrate her CNY with my brother for a week . One of the dinners was with Aunty Hung Yung (Maggie's mother) . She is well but missing Uncle Hii.

Ah Ngao said...

the skin also can be eaten,...eeeh ??.i don't like the idea of eating these " Sei kiok say " becoz twice i saw them eating bangkai( dead rotting carcass)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ah Ngao
Difficult to say about all these: Ikan Baong eat shit...tenggadak also does the same. But they are tasty fish...As for the MLizards...yes they feed on lots of things.....
Ann - what do you think?

Bengbeng said...

i found the art of skinning a four legged snake interesting but lots of work. it was a long time ago but it still remains fresh in my memory as if it were only yesterday. me old man now.. always talk of yesterdays. u dont see me doing such things now even though Ann's ah kung did it

I have contacted Steve but he is also unsure and there r so few days left. wonder what is going on :)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

You are still young like the 11 o'clock sun. Haven't past midday so don't talk about being an old man before your time. Cycle with your son and you are just 18....
Skinning a monitor lizard is ok to many people.

Will just see what happens. Miri side..."don't know" when I asked several people. May be I don't know the right people.TQ

Ann said...


May be I should have an enterprise and go to my husband's kampong in West malaysia and trap these sluggish 4 legged snake.

I still remember how my Ah Kung slaughtered them. I will keep and not eat the skins though, may be I learn how to preserve the skin. I can visit Malaysia every year out of the income I get from selling the skins. May be not even have to make into belts, just dried pelts for tourist to hang on the wall.

Just this Sunday, I watched Jamie Oliver kill and cooked alligators in Louisiana. He says, the best part is the tail.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
If you have the specialist company you can have salted monitor lizard meat (with special tourist packaging) jerky (biltong in Oz) AnnChinn & Co Ltd. Nice name there...the skins can be made into photo frames etc...With you as the towkay neo you can come back more often and even go to visit Guangzhou...Smile...
Yes I did pick up the info that the tail is the best part of an alligator from Jamie Oliver. My cousins said so a long time ago...
I love to eat pigs' tails too...simmered with herbs etc...May be one day I will cook that in claypot for the blog!! yum yum...

Remember pigs tails in Sibu used to be like one ringgit...nowadays they are sold by the kilos and one has to book even... I used to cook the tails for myself when I had knee problem...The Hakkas need to brew Little Corals (a weed) with pigs tails..miraculously I was healed...

Free Bird said...

Bobba the Superhero! Or General Bobba, the Protector. He has done well in protecting the home.

It is pretty unusual that the monitor lizard came at night. I guess must have been his unlucky night.

I have this joke i tell people here.

"Monitor lizards are cooked as gourmet dishes and only the privileged can have them. I have access to this meat. Would you like a kilo?"

I can vaguely remember the taste, but I can remember the fellas living in the tiny house behind ours waiting and catching the monitor lizard.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yeah Free Bird
Bubba has done a good job again. He is a dear.

I can still smell the nice fragrance of the monitor lizard soup...but I don't think I can eat it again.

It was nice watching the two boys wait for the lizards to eat the bait....

Anonymous said...

Funny I feed my monitor dogs. He is just huge