What it really is: Stir-fried dried rat bits with vegetables
Location: Yangshuo, Guangxi, China
Ok, so I've been away for quite a while. My summer was mainly in the UK, a country that for all its charms has fairly squeamish health and safety laws in regards to restaurants. Then in September I moved back to China, but have been too lazy to update this for the last three months or so. It doesn't help that Livejournal has been blocked by the government while I've been away, making updating this a bit of a hassle. In addition to this a little research has led me to the inescapable fact that I'm not the first person with this idea or even the tenth. I caught a few episodes of something called "Cooking in the Danger Zone" too, a programme that does this all better than I realistically could, and was considering letting it quietly die.
Then last week I found a few photos from when I was travelling around China in the spring and thought you people would 'enjoy' them.
I was in Yangshuo, one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you don't believe me then go and look it up, it really is. I wasn't appreciating it too much though. A few days earlier in the neighbouring city of Guilin I'd made the mistake of going into a suspiciously cheap and customer-free restaurant, followed by the greater mistake of eating the luke-warm bowl of food they brought me a minute after I arrived. For the next three days (which included a 6-hour boat journey) I was as sick as I can ever remember being, to the point that I imagined I had caught hepatitis. The cure was a packet of antibiotics I bought from a stall in the street. Shouldn't really have done that, but desperate times and all that.
To make things even worse I'd decided, mainly through bloody-minded ginger pride, to grow a ridiculous goatee.
Anyway, to cut a long story a little shorter, I had soon recovered enough to order the dish called "Bamboo Rat" from the hostel restaurant menu. Call it a test of my digestive system.
As usual with dishes like this it had been cut up into chunks and stir fried with garlic leaves, something that makes almost anything palatable. I love those garlic leaves. Why can't we get around to eating those in Chinese restaurant at home instead of those nasty flavourless water chestnuts?
I went ahead and took a bite.
The first impression was mainly that it simply wasn't very nice. The rat meat had been dried, and this just boosted the intensity of the flavour. For some meats this is a fine idea, but not for rat. Not in any way. The dryness also meant there was more rat-meat on the plate than anticipated, and each piece would take a bit of chewing - chewing that brought out that weird, pungent, fermented flavour.
Oh, and what's that..?
Can you guess what it is yet?
Yes, nothing's been wasted from these vermin (at least, not yet)
As I've said before, there's not much meat on a foot. The only reason for their inclusion in a dish (aside from the obvious one of fucking with the tourists) would be to give your customers something to play with, chew on and spit out. Crunching on bones is a bit much for human teeth.
Still, I couldn't resist having this photo taken.
Jesus, what an utter twat I look.
Still, better to look a twat than have to munch through that whole plateful. Nicely presented and all, but ultimately inedible. Aside from ten or so bites (and the ever-tasty garlic leaves) the dish was left for the dog, who should probably have eaten it in the first place.