It’s not news that crocodiles have been utilized for their skin to make shoes and handbags. But did you also know that crocodile meat is a delicacy in some Asian countries?
Okay, maybe that’s not so surprising, considering that we Asians eat pretty much everything. However, what may surprise you is that Asians are not the only ones eating crocodile meat. It is also popular in Southern USA, Central America, Africa, and Australia.
People have been consuming crocodile meat for a long time due to its health benefits. It has even been dubbed a superfood. Here’s what crocodile meat can offer you:
Health Benefits of Eating Crocodile Meat
- Helps in weight loss – Crocodile meat has more lean muscle tissue and much higher content of lower saturated fat than even the leanest cut of beef. Therefore, if you’re on a diet, crocodile meat is a good substitute for beef, lamb, and pork.
A single serving of 100g of crocodile meat contains 4 grams of total fat and zero saturated fat. The same serving of lean beef contains around 14 grams of total fat and close to 6 grams of saturated fat.
– U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Prevents heart disease – Crocodile meat contains protein, amino acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium that can help improve heart function and prevent heart problems.
- Maintains low cholesterol level – In comparison with other meats, crocodile meat contains a significantly lower level of cholesterol.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes – The protein and amino acid contained in crocodile meat can help protect internal organs including the pancreas, which is responsible for producing insulin and controlling blood sugar levels.
- Enhances nervous system – Crocodile meat contains magnesium — a mineral that is beneficial for enhancing the performance of neurotransmitters and preventing neural disorders such as Alzheimer.
- Heals cirrhosis – Cirrhosis is a chronic disease of the liver. When combined with other herbal medicines, crocodile meat is able to aid the healing process of the damaged liver cells, due to its high content of protein and amino acid.
- Helps build muscles – Crocodile meat contains a high level of protein, which is essential for muscle building and repair. It is higher than that found in chicken.
A 100g serving of stewed crocodile meat contains 46g of protein, while a similar portion of stewed, boneless chicken contains only 25g.
- Keeps bones strong – Crocodile meat also contains a higher level of calcium than beef and can help prevent loss of bone mass.
- Cures asthma – Most reptile meats are said to have a ‘heaty’ characteristic, which warms up the body and is beneficial for asthma sufferers. In Chinese medicine, crocodile meat is mixed with herbs such as ginseng to cure asthma and other respiratory problems.
- Prevents anemia – Anemia is the deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin, which is commonly caused by a lack of iron in the body. The iron contained in crocodile meat can help prevent this.
- Cures skin problems – This is probably the most popular benefit of crocodile meat. Asians believe that it can help cure eczema, allergies, and other skin diseases.
- Delays aging – Due to its high level of protein, crocodile meat is believed to be able to delay the onset of aging and skin wrinkles, which is why it is the meat of choice for older people in China.
Health Risks of Eating Crocodile Meat
But can there be such a perfect food? Everything comes with pros and cons, doesn’t it? Well, you’re right.
In a study published by the International Journal of Food Microbiology, health experts concluded that eating the meat of reptiles such as crocodiles, lizards, and snakes can result in certain diseases. This is due to the possible presence of bacteria including E.coli and Salmonella, which can also be found in raw chicken meat.
However, the data about risks to public health is still inconclusive. Besides, the danger contracting the diseases can be eliminated with proper cooking of the meat.
Eating Crocodile Meat in Thailand
Thailand’s crocodile farms are some of the world’s biggest. According to the Thai Department of Fisheries, around 1.2 million crocodiles are kept on more than 1,000 farms in Thailand.
One kilogram of crocodile meat can bring in as much as THB300, while the bile and blood of the crocodile — sold for medicinal purposes — are worth THB40,000 and THB500 per kilogram, respectively.
During my visit to Bangkok last year, I went to Asiatique to witness the Loy Krathong celebration. The festival is celebrated all over the country, but as far as Bangkok is concerned, Asiatique is the place to be if you don’t want to miss out on the action. And indeed, the crowd was humongous.
That was why I didn’t see the restaurant at first, although I had walked past it many times. It was only towards the end of the night when the crowd had thinned that I finally saw this scene right here:
Judging from its size, the crocodile was probably still a baby. It was an appalling sight, yet intriguing at the same time. Soon, the voices in my head started squabbling with each other. Should I or should I not try it??
Finally, I let my curiosity win. I paid 300 baht for a plate of grilled crocodile — quite expensive for Thai street food. The chopped meat was served with spicy sauce and some lettuce.
As usual, taking the first bite was the one that took the most courage. I have always been squeamish about reptiles, especially lizards. Although not in the same family scientifically, crocodiles look just like giant lizards to me.
I have to say it was not bad at all! There was no yucky smell or weird texture. It tasted just like grilled chicken, although maybe a little chewier. In fact, I think it was the perfect meat for barbecue!
The only problem was that I had just had a heavy dinner, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish the entire plate of crocodile.