Even if I’m from Southeast Asia, there are some delicacies on this part of the globe which can certainly be a challenge to eat, especially for the western palate. And I whole-heartedly agree.
It’s not every day that I get to see people eat bugs, rats and even animals which we consider as pets. But if you’re a tourist visiting Hanoi in Vietnam, prepare yourself to be gastronomically astonished for some of the dishes served in Hanoi do not belong to the normal food fare; at least for us who are used to eating the less eccentric stuff. If you’re feeling adventurous, read on, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1. Fat and Juicy Nhộng
The protein-rich Nhộng or silkworm pupa is considered a delicacy in Hanoi. Rapidly stir-fried in cooking oil, other strong-tasting ingredients such as green onions and fish sauce are then added to enhance the taste of the plump silkworm carcasses. Nhộng is moist inside and can spurt out guts and fluids as you bite them so chew slowly and be careful not to get any bug juice on your shirt.
2. Crunchy Crickets
I wonder how Jiminy the Cricket would feel if he knew that his kind are sought after and eaten in Hanoi. Specialty restaurants deep fry these six-legged chirping delights for five to ten minutes to be made as toppings for salads and noodle dishes because of their unique nutty taste. Others want their crickets battered, deep-fried, and mixed with some sliced hot chili peppers and a squeeze of lemon as a perfect accompaniment for an ice-cold beer. Want fries with that!?
3. Cheaper than Chicken
Farther up north along the countryside parts of Hanoi, peasants and farmers use dogs to hunt farm rats which are to be cooked or sold in the market. Farm rats are edible because they only eat crops and water snails, unlike their city cousins. Farm rats are skinned, chopped in the middle, and cleaned and can either be char-broiled, deep fried, or even boiled in water mixed with different spices to add flavor to the rat’s succulent and sometimes fatty meat. Unfortunately, I don’t have the slightest idea how they taste like but I’m curious and would love to know someday.
4. Manly Meal: Snakes on a Plate
The Le Mat or “Snake Village” is one of the most popular places to eat in Hanoi. And yes, you guessed that right, it’s a village where they only serve snake. First, you get to choose which snake you want to eat. Then, its still-beating heart, bile, gallbladder, and blood (said to be an aphrodisiac) will be placed in shot glasses will be mixed with very strong home-made rice liquor in which you, the guest of honor, must gulp down. The rest of the snake including its skin, bones, and innards will be cooked in many different dishes which will be served as a multi-course meal. I can already feel my chest hairs growing just by reading this.
5. It’s a Man-Eat-Dog World
The northern region of Hanoi is a cold place and dog meat is believed to provide warmth to those who eat it. So if you ever see an animal without a curly tail being roasted in an open pit flame in Hanoi, chances are, it’s not a pig. Not everyone in Hanoi agrees that eating “man’s best friend” is a good thing but it will keep on selling since there’s a huge market of dog meat eaters in Hanoi and generally, the whole of Vietnam.
Photo of dog meat in Hanoi, Vietnam, by Morak Faxe