Vietnam: if you can catch it, you can eat it, but I might pass.

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:

  • Dog
  • Cat
  • 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
  • Porcupine
  • Sparrows
  • Scorpion
  • 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!

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. L says:

    Okay, this was NOT the entry to read while eating breakfast.

    Thanks for the education.

    Like

  2. razzbuffnik says:

    I have this suspicion that if you travel long enough in Asia you will have unwittingly eaten dog at some time.

    Like

  3. myriam says:

    have you seen this type of snake wine and also the one with gecko ?

    http://www.asiansnakewine.com/

    Thanks.

    Like

  4. Tony says:

    I’ve probably eaten dog but just didn’t know it durin my Asian travels in my younger days.
    Gag, gag. gag……
    Roasted Rottweiller
    Poached Poodle
    Barbequed Bulldog
    Toasted Terrier
    Hot Dogs……
    Uh oh had them before on many occassions, just didn’t realise, I thought it was just a name…

    Like

    1. Jennifer says:

      The Vietnamese do not eat rottweillers, poodles, bulldogs, etc. The dog they eat are actually wild dogs that roam around Vietnam. These dogs have never once been bred as human companions. They know better than to eat someone else’s beloved pet.

      Like

  5. S. Le says:

    I believe in Vietnam I would starve…. Or at least become vegetarian!

    Like

    1. Jennifer says:

      There’s more to Vietnam than the food listed in this article. Seriously, there’s pho, banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe), Vietnamese vermicelli soup, Vietnamese egg noodles (called mi–pronounced like mi in do re mi), spring rolls, banh cuon (I think it’s like rolled pho or something), banh bao filled with beef or pork, etc.

      Like

      1. epicurienne says:

        Hi Jennifer – thank you for your comments. I hope you’ve read my other posts about Vietnam – just so you know that I love Vietnamese food and no tarantulas need be involved, however it is true that the Vietnamese eat lots of different things that most Westerners would never dream of putting in their mouths. I found out a lot about why (mostly due to famine and necessity, just like how the French began to eat frogs’ legs) and what from various Vietnamese that we met when we visited Vietnam not long after this post was written. There are even restaurants which make their living out of serving some of these animals, insects, spiders and reptiles as a key part of their menu. In Hanoi you can go to Phuc Van Lai, an insect specialist restaurant serving things like cricket, locust and scorpion. Le Mat village is famous for food and drink made from snake. The bravest I got was in the Mekong, where I tried snake brandy – tasted fine but v v strong. As for dog, at Cu Chi our driver offered to take us to a very good dog restaurant. He was a dog lover and had 4 of his own at home, but explained that any dog alone on the street is fair game for dog restaurants – be they strays or much loved family pets.

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      2. epicurienne says:

        Banh cuon is a pork and mushroom crepe rolled into a shape like a spring roll. Pho is noodle soup with added protein (could be beef, chicken or seafood). Vietnamese fish is to die for. I love mackerel with lemongrass but any fish I’ve eaten around the Vietnam coast has always been fresh and delicious.

        Like

  6. razzbuffnik says:

    The food in vietnam and just about all of asia (with the notable exception of the Philippines) for that matter is delicious.

    All the wierd things you hear people talking about tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

    Spring rolls in Vietnam….. mmmmmmm!
    Pho………. mmmmmmm!

    Like

  7. epicurienne says:

    Razz, I think you’re right on all counts. The closest we’ve come to eating dog was on our way out of Hanoi when the driver pointed out a row of “very good dog restaurants”. One of our drivers told us all the different things we could eat, if we wanted to, in Vietnam. (See above post – he covered most of them, including Fruit Bat with a 50cm wing span). When I asked him if he’d tried any of them himself he’d only tried snake wine.
    I’d love to hear why food in the Phillipines is different. Haven’t tried it so no clue at this end of the ether!

    Like

  8. epicurienne says:

    S. Le
    You wouldn’t starve here. Definitely not. The fruit is out of this world and they serve fries with everything, even a traditional meal! There is a big bread culture left over from years of the French and they make great iced coffee. There’s so much to go for on the menus here, just not the creepy crawlie things perhaps!

    Like

  9. epicurienne says:

    L – thanks for making me giggle. To picture anyone reading this at breakfast is just too funny!

    Tony – you also make me smile in the worst possible way. Tell me, was Roasted Rottweiller tougher than your experience of Poached Poodle? I like your sense of humour. A LOT.

    Like

  10. epicurienne says:

    Myriam, thanks for the link. People – if you want to check out snake wine, go to the link on Myriam’s comment.

    Like

  11. razzbuffnik says:

    I was in the Philippines back in the mid 1970s and I found the food was very bland and greasy. It was like they took all of the worst of Spanish, Asian and American food added some oil.

    The most common dish on offer back then was Chop Suey!

    Quelle horreur!

    Like

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