Sunday, August 28, 2005

Eat Shit and Die

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

I am sitting on a fifth-floor balcony at 6:30 in the morning, overlooking the Cat Ba Town harbor. The view is spectacular. In a few hours, we will leave on a two day private boat tour around Lan Ha Bay and Ha Long Bay, stopping off at white beaches, snorkeling, and visiting Monkey Island.

The past few days had been spent in Hanoi. Mike and I arrived by 30-hour train from Saigon on the 24th and met Jarah at the at the Golden Buffalo Hotel. From there, we visited a few of the sites around the city, and did some of the tourist thing. We walked a dozen kilometers around the city, saw an embalmed Ho Chi Minh, and learned a bit about Vietnam's war-filled 20th century history. And the city itself was quite nice. It definitely has a lot more character than Saigon, as it doesn't seem to have been quite as westernized. But, the most rewarding thing about Hanoi wasn't her scenery or the history stored in her museums, it was the strange culinary "delights" that we enjoyed in her restaurants and bia hoi bars.
Jarah has a bit of a gastronomic predilection. Homeboy likes to eat. And it was his 30th birthday, so we decided to satisfy his desire for exotic foods by taking him to some of Hanoi's specialty restaurants.

The first night was definitely the best. We went to a restaurant and ate a 2-kilogram snake. Pretty much all of it. We did shots of it's blood and bile, snacked on it's crispy fried skin, slurped soup filled with shavings from it's belly, and ate it's flesh and tripe cooked in various types of breading and vegetable wrappings. But, they saved the best for first.
When we arrived at the restaurant riding pillion and helmetless on small Japanese motorbikes, they showed us the snake that we were about to devour. He writhed and rebelled against the will of his captors, but it was of no use. He would soon be dead. And eaten. A few minutes after we were seated in the empty upstairs section, they brought the reptile up, set up a few bottles and glasses around the floor near our table, and proceeded to eviscerate the snake right in front of us. Blood went in one bottle, bile went in the other and the snake's heart went into Jarah's mouth.
The still beating heart.
He said it was quite a strange feeling, having that little muscle pump away on his tongue. I believe him. I don't know if I could have eaten it. I would like to think that I could intellectualize away any qualms I have, but the reality is that I've been raised on pretty simple foods, and I the thought of chewing on something that's moving grosses me out.

Over the next two days, we sampled more of Vietnam's cuisine, the some of the highlights being dog and crocodile. The crocodile we ate at a restaurant called Highway 4, which also specialized in Vietnamese medicinal drinks. Mike had a series of five shots called "One Night, Five Times" which seemed to have a bit of amphetamine effect on him. He was "feeling good" all night, and was particularly talkative and giggly. The dog was from a bia hoi bar, and was surprisingly good. It was fatty, and damn tasty.


Blogger jason said...

They eats the dog, and the cat, and the rat...

9/03/2005 9:14 AM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude... maybe I've been too Americanized but that sounds pretty gross. I'm not sure you can find those stuff in the neighborhood where I grew up. But then again, that was over 30 years ago and those poor folks have gone through hell and back a few times.

9/07/2005 3:25 AM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a few books on the subject, some very

11/16/2005 4:35 PM gmt


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