BAN NOON SE KOON, Thailand >> When it comes to eating rat, there are two kinds of people: those who grew up eating it and those who are repelled by the idea.
Friends who grew up in farm towns in Southeast Asia said, “Save some for me.”
The more common reaction, though, was, “Ewww. No. No. No.”
Rat meat was for sale at the local market in a rural Thai town when I visited last month. My friend, who had invited me to her hometown to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year, asked if I wanted to try some.
I was hesitant.
“How do I know where that rat came from? Or if it’s fresh?” I said.
Turns out, her brother’s friend catches rats on his farm and sells them. The farm rats eat sugar cane — the main crop in the area — rice and watermelon, which are also grown here.
So, theoretically, the meat should be sweet and clean.
We went to the friend’s house and peered into huge 5-foot-tall clay pots while he used a flashlight to point out the rats for sale.
He feeds them rice for a few days after catching them to make sure the meat tastes good.
That night, after we’d paid about $15 for two rats, he brought them over to the house, still alive, in a blue mesh net.
My friend’s brother dispatched them, much as you would a chicken, by grabbing the neck and hind legs and stretching out the animal until the neck or spine snapped.
Using charcoal ash, he pulled off the fur and burned the rest of it off over a fire. He then cleaned out the insides and cut off the paws and head but left the tail on, as people like to eat it.
My friend’s mother, a very good cook, roasted the rat in an electric oven after seasoning it with oyster sauce, fish sauce, garlic and a packaged Thai spice mixture.
The finished rat, nicely browned on the outside, looks very much like a roasted chicken, except for the long tail.
I tore off a piece of leg meat and considered what to do next.
On one hand, rat is a common food in farming areas, and these were field rats, not city rats from the sewer or trash pile. On the other hand, it’s still a rat.
It helped that the meat, separated from the tail, looks a lot like chicken. The leg bone is about the same size, and the meat is fatty and juicy.
I took a bite.
It was good. The meat was tender, not at all gamy, and the garlic and oyster sauce gave it a nice flavor.
It’s a bit of a food cliche to say strange meats taste like chicken. Frog, alligator, rabbit — they kind of taste like chicken. But you can tell the difference.
Rat meat really tastes like chicken. The tail, however, is not as tasty. It’s kind of crunchy — like a rat cracker.
My friend’s dad likes it with beer.
That makes two cliches: Rat tastes like chicken. Rat tail, like other exotic foods, is better with beer.
Web producer Craig Gima tries out new foods in a video and print series every other Wednesday. Dare him to try a really scary food: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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No,thank you !!!
Why doesn’t some entrepreneur start raising rats for consumption? In a controlled environment, the rats’ diet can be controlled so that they aren’t eating garbage. They are known to multiply quickly and then they seem to command a good price – $15 for two rats in Thailand seems like a moneymaker (unless they are ripping off foreigners).
Heck, with people worrying about food shortages as the world population increase, this can be one solution.
You first, I’ll pass.
I used to raise white mice when I was a kid and then white rats in my Lab as a post-graduate. They were very friendly and like to crawl on my shoulder. Unfortunately, they all had to be sacrificed for medical research. Well, I did let several of my favorite white mice escape in the field by our house.
I ate dog at a Pacific Island wedding. They only told me afterward.
Good time to become a vegetarian.
We need to focus on insects as our protein source.
Now, that’s GROSS!
Oh by, rat crackers. My favorite!
Oh hell no…
also, I’m not a pig like Andrew Zimmern.
I’ll wait for the food truck.
American companies are sending chickens to China to be processed and sent back. Given the reputation of Chinese food products, this makes me wonder if the meat that tastes like chicken really is chicken, or…
I read an article recently that claimed that what is being sold as boneless chicken wings are actually rat meat. Gross! Not eating chicken ever again unless I kill it myself.
Wonder if one can get rabies from eating rats.
Perhaps a serving of cockroaches on the side.
What depravity and low levels have we sunk to when Hawaii’s most widely circulated newspaper’s food editors publish an article in its food section touting rat as a food delicacy? This is uncalled for. Rats in our society are vermin. They live in sewers and carry disease borne viruses. I am nearly 70 years old, sold the Honolulu Advertiser as a nine-year-old kid and have had a lifelong readership relationship with this paper. Consider this a complaint, I am so disgusted. I don’t care who in the world eats rat — in Hawaii we don’t. Whatever gustatory audience the writer is pandering to, whatever country savors rat — go write your stories there. Disgusting and unacceptable!
You obviously didn’t read the story carefully. These were not sewer rats but filed rats that ate plants.
Hard to believe though that anyone would shell out $15 for two rats – why not eat chicken? It’s cheaper
Take it easy on Gima on eating foods that are different from what is served in Hawaii or the US. As long as Gima is not eating Soylent Green he is okay to report eating these different foods.
OK – All-right when is/are Wendy’s, BK and McDs. gonna serve Rat Burgers? Oh yes Snake also tastes like chicken, Not Bad, had some in the 1950s at a Cuban Refugee camp.
Where are they serving it in Honolulu?
If they told us it was chicken, we wouldn’t know it was rat.