Rat is now found on dining tables at the big city restaurants throughout the country, but to really get the taste of the countryside, exotic food lovers are encouraged to head to the Mekong Delta.
Rats have been a delicacy in Vietnam's rural areas for years
Rats have been a delicacy in Vietnam's rural areas for years. However, the big city folk were generally less enthusiastic, often associating the animals more with garbage-digging vermin than mouth-watering entrees.
But for the past ten years, rat-based dishes have begun to catch on in the big cities as well, provided the rats are sourced from the fields and not the cities, Mon Ngon Viet Nam (Vietnamese Delicious) Magazine.
Vu Bang (1913 – 1984), a well-known Vietnamese writer who wrote extensively about Vietnamese food, wrote of rat meat in his book, “Exotic dishes of the South.”
“The rat meat in the Southern countryside (comes from) original field rats, which eat rice, young grass, glutinous corn, purple yam, drink waters from canals and breathe fresh air.”
Rat meat is available all year round in the Mekong Delta, thanks to the region’s immense rice fields. The average price for a kilo of field rat goes for about VND25,000 to VND30,000 ($1.40-$1.60).
Farmers from the south, in need of other sources of protein, have become masters of the catch and more importantly, the cooking of the field rat.
The spoils from the hunt can be made into a variety of tasty dishes: Stir-fried, boiled, grilled or deep-fried, but roasted rat meat is the most common. For connoisseurs of food, rat meat with fermented rice or finely chopped rat with lemongrass and chili are the ways to go.
They all have a distinctive flavor but the common feature about them all is “they make the drinking that much better,” said a farmer.
According to the farmers, rats fit for roasting need to be big.
Seasoning is the most important stage and requires a variety of spices: chopped garlic and shallot, sugar, salt and seasoning powder. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for the meat to absorb the spices.
When the meat is done, the skins are coated with pure honey to enhance their aroma and give them a golden brown appearance. A perfect roasted rat should have a reddish crispy skin and is served with fish sauce and green mango.
Deep fried and steamed rat are other popular choices. Rats are carefully washed and chopped into quarters. After seasoning, the cook fries the batches with salt on a charcoal stove r steams them with lemon leaves.
And, like many dishes in Vietnam, you can’t go wrong by serving it with generous helpings of potent home-brewed rice wine.