HAIPHONG, VIETNAM — A gourmet chef in Vietnam has died after being bitten by a venomous sea snake that he was to cook as the nightly special.

Le Hung Cuong, 22, died en route to hospital in the northern port city of Haiphong last Thursday, said Nguyen Lien, owner of the restaurant that specialised in such delicacies as stir-fried and stewed snake.

Cuong died en route to hospital, as his killer was being served in a blood porridge.

Mr Cuong picked up the half-metre sea snake from the glass aquarium it was kept in to prepare the restaurant's speciality, porridge with snake's blood. The snake lashed around and bit his left hand, Ms Lien said.

"It was bad luck for him and for our restaurant," she said. "He was careless and did not put on the plastic gloves as required."

The snake dropped back down into the tank but was retrieved by another chef within a few minutes and served to the waiting customer.

Mr Cuong had been working at the restaurant for only a few days, Ms Lien said. The restaurant would remain open, she added.

Snake is a delicacy in Vietnam, where many men believe it has properties as an aphrodisiac. Entire villages in northern Vietnam are dedicated to raising snakes and cooking them.