Walking through the streets in Vietnam is an adventure. Motorbikes are everywhere, outnumbering cars by a huge margin. Crossing the street becomes a test for your nerves as well as your health insurance. Just grit your teeth, step out, stick together and don’t stop. Tonight, our walk through the chaos is all about confronting another fear…trying weird food.
The four of us are staying in a homestay called Nguyen Shack outside of Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. Our room consists of a bamboo hut with a thatched roof in the jungle. As you can imagine, there are lots of critters that live near, in or on these huts. Many of those critters were on our menu for the evening. You see, our family had decided to join the Can Tho Street Food Tour run by our homestay. Little did we realize when we signed up that rat, crocodile, snake, and frog were on the menu!
Once Evan, age 9, heard the menu he was unsure if we should even go. “I am NOT eating RAT!” Thankfully, quite a few other guests signed up too so he wanted to join in the fun. We all packed into a small boat and headed into town via the backwater canals of the Mekong Delta. It was an interesting trip because you can see right into the back of many of the homes built on the water catching a glimpse of their every day lives.
We arrived in Can Tho and headed to the first restaurant to try crocodile and snake. Everyone in our group tried both. The snake, king cobra, was chopped into little bits and stir fried into a curry. Honestly, if they didn’t tell you, you would never know what it was. The crocodile was cut into chunks and grilled. It tasted like chewy chicken and everyone agreed that it wasn’t too weird.
Next up was the big test….rat and frog. We walked up at our next stop and sat at a long table that had been held for us on the sidewalk. As we sat on our tiny plastic stools, they brought a few plates of frog and rat. Evan was not impressed. You see, they looked like frog and rat in their more, um, natural form. After a few minutes of watching everyone else dig in, Evan couldn’t be the only one left out. He picked up his chopsticks and grabbed a frog leg (complete with toes). In his mouth it went. After a few chews, he decided it tasted pretty good. Next up, rat. He was still balking at this one. Rat is a big hurdle to overcome. Finally he closed his eyes and popped a big bite in his mouth. Chew, chew, chew, smile. It got the thumbs up too.
Thankfully, food in Vietnam doesn’t always include these more exotic foods. Even on this tour we got a reprieve. We enjoyed grilled pork salad rolls that we got to make ourselves. Then we finished the night with rolled ice cream. Of course, neither of those dishes, while delicious, are what Evan talks about. His stories are all about the rat. Oh and in case you are wondering, rat tastes like pork.
Who knew that a kid from Calgary, that won’t eat an onion if his life depended on it, would be eating rat sitting on a tiny plastic stool on the sidewalk in Vietnam. It sums up nicely why travel to far off places is so great for kids, though he still won’t eat an onion.