All I wanted to do was find out how to eat Pho properly. So I went onto You Tube and searched for Pho. I watched and learned, then I thought I’d have a quick look at Vietnamese food on You Tube. Almost immediately, a clip of a dog being roasted on a spit came up. Cue mild nausea. Then there was a clip where two guys are eating dog while a dog yaps in the background. “Fido can come to the funeral of his friend,” they said, or something to that effect, before laughing. I thought of our late, beloved family dog and got angry. It’s not right for me to judge this, though. I know that in different countries we eat different things, and the French and Italians think nothing of eating horse meat but as I wasn’t raised to think of a horse or a dog as food, I find this more than a bit squeamish.
One Vietnamese person wrote on You Tube that even the Vietnamese can find eating dog difficult, but it’s affordable meat for them which is why dog stays on the menu. I then thought I’d better find out what else they eat in Vietnam, just so I can try to recognise it and steer clear.
This is my list so far:
- Rats, which they hunt in fields with dogs
- Turtle soup, turtle blood wine and turtle bile wine
- Snake, snake blood wine, snake wine (no blood involved in the latter)
- Chicken blood soup (by now I’m realising that there really isn’t much they don’t eat in Vietnam and they obviously use every possible part of the animal)
- Monkey balm wine, made from their bones
- Fried tarantula
- Live grubs, still squirming (like Witchety grubs in Australia)
- Lizards, which are skinned alive
- Snails – not so bad. I can eat those. Did you know that most escargots served in France were raised at snail farms in China?
- And the best by far: worms. Even though the writhing mass looks like earth worms, they are in fact fresh water things with legs so technically they’re not worms but as I can’t see the legs in the clip, they’re as good as worms to me. They’re only available at market in autumn for one month and they’re mixed with all sorts of other ingredients to make fried patties, kind of like a worm burger. It’s probably tasty if you don’t know what it is beforehand.
These menu items do not, however, shake my fascination for Vietnam. I’m still finding it absorbing in a great many ways, although I do find that sticking to fish is the most sensible option, especially as it’s so fresh. This hasn’t been hard to do because I’m semi-vege anyway.
Returning to You Tube for more gory-eating videos before we left, I found Andrew Zimmern, presenter of Bizarre Foods for The Travel Channel. This man calls the above list “exotic edibles” and will eat just about anything in the name of culinary education. He’s braver than me.
For the first in Zimmern’s series of six on Vietnamese cuisine, click on this clip. It shows that seriously, just about every part of a snake is used in Vietnamese cooking, and he says that Hanoi is a foodie culture “with attitude”. In my book, that’s a complete understatement, but I guess you need to see it to believe it!