I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I typed the title to this Blog Post. There is no innuendo intended! I quite literally ate meat, from a rat, from an actual restaurant.
I was backpacking through Vietnam and was getting quite used to eating well, 3-4 times a day for cheap.
I love trying new foods and occasionally like a dare. When I was younger my Dad would dare me to eat a hot chilli for a tenner or a tea spoon of tabasco for 20 quid. I even ate a fish eyeball once for a fiver!
I had an interesting childhood I guess! Haha.
Anyway, rice, noodles and sweet and sour chicken are just fine for a few months but after a while you want to try something new.
‘But rat though???’ I hear you cringe.
Well, I was handed the menu in this fine establishment. That’s when I started reviewing my options. I must admit, there were a few things that stood out. Frog? Hmm well I’ve tried their legs at least in France, it’s a maybe. Bird stew? Ehh, doesn’t sound overly appealing in this hot country. Fried snake with Chinese mushrooms? Lost me at shrooms, sorry. Rat? Hmm *strokes imaginary beard* consider me intrigued.
Option 1) Fried Rats with onions
Option 2) Grilled Rats
Onions you say? Well, I can’t turn that down.
Of course, I’d have some questions. Firstly, is this rat going to be presented to me in it’s natural form? i.e. will it look like a rat? Secondly, did you just catch said rodent in the gutter outside? Thirdly, is it safe to eat rat, what about diseases? Lastly, will it also come with a side of rice?
My questions were ‘kind of’ answered by the suspiciously amused waitress. I’m getting scared. Is this a trick dish? (You should know, I’m actually quite scared of rats, live ones anyway). Am I going to be the first person ever to be killed by a rat? What a way to go! Meh! Will make a good story. I’ll do it. I was satisfied enough with her answers. She said that it would be just meat, it’s appearance was what I was most worried about, disturbingly.
The waitress came back a few minutes later asking me if I would like to pick my own rat. “Nooooo. Thank you.” I mumbled nervously.
I was starting to get really worried. I knew I didn’t even have to eat it if I didn’t want to but I kind of just had the urge to try it. I thought to myself, I’ll pop to the ladies room that way I can have a peak into the kitchen (which was en route) to check on the cleanliness at least.
As I approached the kitchen I saw there were about 12 glass boxes, stacked on top of each other and side by side just in the doorway. I had to do a double take. Live toads, about 40 of them stuffed into this box, all piled on top of each other. 15 large eels in the next swimming around an inch of murky water. 30 or so brown snakes all curled round each other in the next and so on. On the very top, the box of rats. At least 50, live rats, clambering to get to the top of the pile, squealing and clawing at the glass.
I’ve seen a fair amount of weird or shocking things in my time but I didn’t know what to do. Faint? Cry? Puke? I just stood there, frozen. Mouth wide open and just staring. A man came over to me asking if I was ok, I can’t remember if I responded. I turned around to go back to my table and told my friend I couldn’t do it. I told her to go and look at the boxes. Just as she got up my dish arrived. Oh no! How do I get out of this! The chef had even come out to present it to me. I blushed then gulped. “I’ll have a large Bia Saigon (Vietnamese Beer) please” smiling through gritted teeth.
I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath, let it out slowly and opened one eye. I peeked down at the dish of doom. Huh. This isn’t my dish is it? It looked like a perfectly acceptable dish you’d expect to have at a Chinese restaurant. Crispy shredded beef or something! Great I thought, they got my order mixed up and I’ve ended up with something else. Winner. I was so relieved, I had almost forgotten what I had just seen. My beer was delivered to me and I grabbed my cutlery to dig in! The waitress came over and asked ‘How is rat? Good yes? Delicacy!” smiling sweetly.
Ok, I’m committed now. Confused and slightly disturbed, but it looks ok. I picked up the smallest amount of the meat on the end of my fork and quickly chewed and swallowed it . Huh, tastes like chicken. (What doesn’t!) I had another bite then another, not bad.
Edible? Yes. Would I have it again? No.
Not only was I horrified with how these animals were kept and had serious concerns about hygiene, it didn’t really taste like chicken. More like earthy/ muddy duck meat. I can’t say I’d recommend this dish but I guess I’ve crossed it off my list to try!
What I did learn is that the rat meat is safe to eat, the ones they cook just eat rice from paddy fields, they aren’t running around sewers on anything! The Vietnamese actually believe eating rat will keep you youthful as they are packed with amino acids. (Not sure if this info is accurate for all of Vietnam if you are wanting to try it! You kind of try at your own risk! Tempting ehy!?)
I’d love to hear about some of the weird things you have tried on your travels!
Think I’ll be sticking to sweet and sour chicken for now!