Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's For Dinner?

Long before I left on this trip, I had heard that the Southeast Asians had a penchant for eating what we would call "exotic" foods. Needless to say, in my strolls through markets, I looked for these delicacies. In addition, my Vietnamese friend  Thien Vu aka Andy, who owns a nail salon in Astoria, encouraged me to try cobra wine. He explained that it was a sure bet to increase virility.  Therefore this morning on my last full day on the Mekong I decided to share a few pictures of dishes I saw and items you also might like to try.

In the large jar in the bottom picture are cobras that have been fermenting for several weeks. Together with rice, yeast and water, a delightful schnapps is created. I knocked back a swallow and let the juice "slither" down my throat. The snake penises are first removed and put in a different jar and are fermented separately. I have a photo of this concoction too, which, for any voyeur reader, I will share privately.

The second photo from the bottom and the second from the top showing showing some pink meaty loins are the carcasses of rats. I have a photo of a lady taking live ones out of a cage, smacking their heads on the pavement, skinning them, and throwing them in this bowl.  I do not do rats. I don't care if they allegedly taste like chicken.

I'm generally sympathetic to animals so it is hard for me to watch them suffer. It is  common to see live animals, especially birds, restrained and then hacked, or to watch live fish flopping around before being beheaded and wrapped for an evening dinner. In this country practically anything that moves gets eaten. The markets are full of a variety of poultry, sea life, and meats. All parts have some use. In the middle picture some relatives of the "AFLAC" duck have met their demise. Duckling eggs are also available and, I am told, are remarkable in taste and texture.

I have dozens of pictures of eels. The third picture is one which shows a small, light brown colored variety.  As previously posted, these can be purchased fresh or dried. I find them both palatable and they have been included in some of the meals on the boat.

The question, I wonder, is what foods do we have in our culture, which others consider exotic? It's not a Snickers bar. I bought one the other day in Cambodia. Anyone having a TV dinner tonight?


  1. Re Anyone having a TV dinner tonight?

    YES, dammit! A very late one too, while I've been trying to read your post!

    No way could I read this post in one sitting. I had to stop in the middle, step away from the computer to eat a few more bites and then come back. Otherwise I never would have been able to keep down the few bites I'd already eaten.

    I still have a few bites of carrot and some of this tuna stuff left. After I get this comment posted, I'm going to finish the TV dinner away from the computer, then make sure it stays down before I even think about looking at your pictures!

    Maybe by tomorrow I'll work up the nerve to deal with fermented cobra putzes, but I am not making you any promises.

  2. I'll definitely keep this post around in case I need to go on a diet!! And I do think that I'll skip breakfast today! Terrific captures for those with a strong stomach! But, as always, it's a fascinating post and a great look at a world so different from mine. What a wonderful adventure you've had!! Have a great trip back up the Mekong and a safe trip home.

  3. No! Not baby turtles! I can handle the rest, although somehow drinking cobra wine sounds gross, while eating a cooked cobra doesn't sound so bad, "parts" and all. Rats??? I think I would want to have them inspected first. The images do make fine photos.

  4. My Vietnam vet friends used to tell me that if they say a mama-san running down the street with a cleaver they knew she was chasing one of the very rare stray cats. Cats were a delicacy then in Vietnam. That's why they were so rare.

    I dunno if that is true but after looking at this post, I'd guess it is.

    Sorry, not one of these things look the least bit appetizing and I would have to be pretty damn hungry to even consider eating any of them!

    Sheesh! Sylvia said it all. You must have a strong stomach.