Sometimes I surprise even myself…and that doesn’t happen very often these days. The most recent occurrence was one night recently when I went out to dinner and ended up eating dog.
Not that it was planned, it just sorta happened.
To explain, I went to a favourite bia hoi only to find it heaving with customers. The owner spotted me and asked me to join him and a friend at their table. I gladly accepted and promptly ordered stir fried noodles with chicken.
As I tucked in I became aware of this dish of dark coloured meat on the table. I wasn’t 100 per cent certain but I suspected it was dog.
The owner must have noticed for as soon as I finished my noodles he asked if I would like to try some.
“It’s dog isn’t it?” I enquired.
“Yes,” he replied, shooting a knowing glance to his companion which said, “This Tay is never going to eat dog.”
Challenge accepted. I dug, pardon the Scottish pun, into the plate of meat for a respectable sized slice.
“It’s just meat,” I told myself as I chewed down on the first mouthful. Obviously, I didn’t have a clue what to expect as my taste buds came into action. My immediate impression was gamey beef. It also made me think of tinned dog meat for some reason. Not that I have eaten that.
Having successfully negotiated the first mouthful without gagging, I was able to report to my dining companions that dog tastes okay.
They looked impressed as I finished off my first ever slice of dog.
I had just accepted a second slice wrapped in a leaf when I was suddenly struck by a disturbing thought.
“Hold on, this isn’t Xxxx we are eating?” I asked slightly perturbed.
Xxxx was the bia hoi dog. A scrawny little dog that would run over to me with his tail wagging furiously.
Inevitably the answer was in the affirmative.
“No use in backing down now,” I said to myself as I dipped a slice of the unfortunate Xxxx into a bowl of greyish dog gravy.
Wrapped in leaf and dipped in the vinegary sauce he tasted even better than the first slice.
A third slice of dog secured my reputation as hardcore in the eyes of my dining buddies. It also served to prove that in the event of an apocalyptic event I wouldn’t turn my nose up at Rover should the necessity arise.
Before everyone gets on their collective high horse. My dog dinner was ethically sourced and hopefully was humanely dispatched. I had met my meat and knew he had a good albeit short life.
As someone who has kept pigs I know from personal experience that pigs are at least as brainy, if not more so, than dogs. They are affectionate and will respond to their name if you are misguided enough to give them one. Trust me on this.
Like dogs they can be house trained too. They are fundamentally clean animals despite appearances.
Yet we happily eat pigs but not dogs. There is a clear double standard right there.
This, then, is plainly a cultural difference between SE Asia and the West. Dogs are pets. But also sources of protein.
I am not, to be absolutely clear, in any way condoning the likes of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, dog napping or the inhumane treatment of dogs. Merely I am pointing out it is a cultural tradition and we should accept that subject to animal cruelty concerns. It is no more abhorrent than rearing Craig and Albert when I knew they were destined for the freezer. It was a sad day when they were taken away to the abattoir. I declined to be involved in loading them onto the trailer after caring for them every day. My regret was somewhat assuaged however when I tasted the sausages. Best pork sausages ever.
So with dog out of the way I can now think about cat and rat, two other Vietnamese delicacies. As an acquaintance of mine used to say, “I’m a cat lover but I’m not sure I could eat a whole one.” If he came here he could find out.
Rat, I am strongly advised, is best eaten out in the country, not the city. Given that con chuột refers to both mice and rats in Vietnamese you will only have size to go on.
I have – for now – decided to pass on duck blood and still beating snake heart squeamish Westerner that I am.