31 March 2008

Bat Blood

From Jerry Hopkins' Strange Foods:

The Tri Ky Restaurant doesn't exist in Saigon any more, having been replaced by a high-rise office building not long after the city was renamed for the country's founder, Ho Chi Minh. A pity, too, because it had one of Southeast Asia's preeminent "strange food" menus, offering dog, bat, turtle, and a variety of wild game, as well as a selection of blood cocktails for the end of a difficult workday.


"I'll have one of these," I said, pointing to a line in the menu. "The, uh, cobra."

"Bat very good, sir," the waiter said, pointing at the menu.

"Bat blood?" I said. I tried to play it cool. "What sort of bat?" I asked, as if it really mattered and I would know what he was talking about, whatever he said.

"The fruit bat, sir. Also have bat stew. Very good."

I told the gentleman that I'd try it. With a can of 333, the local beer.

What happened next surprised me. After the cold beer was delivered, the bat was brought to my table still alive, its legs and wings gripped in the waiter's hand as he cut the creature's throat with a small, sharp knife. The blood fell into a small glass.

I raised the small glass and drank the warm liquid, tried to roll it around my tongue as if it were vintage wine, but then chased it rather quickly with a swallow of 333. The waiter smiled, still holding the limp bat in one hand, cupping the head with the other in a small bowl to prevent any blood from falling onto the floor.

"One more, sir?" he asked.

"Maybe after the meal." Still trying to be cool. As for the bat stew, think Dinty Moore with very stringy meat.


Mark said...

When my cousin lived in Singapore, he saw the feasting of monkey brains. The staff bring out the monkey alive and let the diners play with it for a little while. The dining table opens up with a hole in the middle for the monkey's head (sort of like a horizontal stock). They closed the table around its neck and it struggled until the waiter cut the top of its head off with a large knife/sword. Instead of eating it like an entry, monkey brains are more of a dip. I'm sure there's video of something like this on You Tube but just hearing about it is enough for me.

WestEnder said...

Yeah, that's pretty gruesome. It also seems impractical, since the post-decapitation blood spray would be messy, or so I would think.

The book also says that in places where monkey is eaten, families sometimes keep them as pets for a while before eating them.

Mark said...

I hadn't even thought of that. He didn't mention it but it would make sense if they put something over the monkey's head to keep the mess down (although that might have been part of the charm).

This cousin's younger brother saw large, living bats for sale at an outdoor market and went into a fit. An old lady was inspecting a bat for lesions by pulling its wings open. They still talk about that.