Grilled Rat; It’s What’s For Dinner in Saigon

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What’s new on the menu in Vietnam? None other than rat! I read on this rainy morning a story by James Hookway in the WSJ that told of the booming market for rodent all through Vietnam. Street vendors and restaurants report they are looking for rats to sell, and to serve grilled with lemongrass or roasted in garlic. The entree costs about 60,000 Viet dong, or $4.

While rat has had its place on the Vietnamese table for centuries, it was the bird flu scare of 2004 that boosted demand for the tasty rodents. And because so many snakes and cats are already being made into meals, the rat’s natural enemies are ‘not as common. Snake prices have doubled, to $18 a pound, due to demand, and snake farms are cranking as many of them out as they can.

Some restaurants even allow patrons to bring their own rats, in case they don’t have enough to sell. But most Vietnamese like to cook rat at home, 4.5 pounds is enough to feed a hungry dinner party of ten. According to the story, slightly chubby rats taste best, it’s that thin layer of fat that gives a nice sizzle on the grill. It’s the year of the rat, on the plate and on the calendar.