Tastes Like Chicken

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Your Virtual Mirage 
Recipe Sermonette

With the arrival of the Lunar New Year yesterday (year of the Monkey) there has been a bit of chatter on this blog pertaining to where you eat more exotic food: China or France – with a very loose definition of the word, ‘exotic’. Old China hands take all of this with a grain of salt.

In Asia, protein is protein. In Western restaurants in places such as Austin, San Francisco or New York, the owners stress that the food they serve is “sustainable”, which means that the ecology of raising them does not put the population in general in danger. You never hear that in China. No, not ever. But more on that later.
I have never seen a feral dog or cat in China and it’s rare to see birds in the wild. They are protein.  It’s true that birds fly and are beyond reach in that mode but they all need to land sometime. The cats that you see in the market are marked for supper not as pets. Caged market cats in China usually look forlorn. While I’m not a cat lover, it’s not a pretty sight. The life between birth and the wok is not a pleasant one for Chinese cats. Golden Retrievers in South Korean markets almost always wear a red and blue bow around their neck. It lets the buyer know they’re for BBQ’ing. They always look healthy and active because nobody will pay good money for a listless meal.

Now it’s time for LL’s Recipe corner:

These rats have been trapped. They’re Shanghai street rats.

This is the process for preparing rat. The rat is first washed and then they use a propane torch to burn off the hair.
Then you wash the rat again, to get all of the singed hair off. This kills any plague-carrying fleas, for those of you who are picky when it comes to such parasites.
Rat is a source of protein and is widely consumed in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Indochina, etc. The first place I ate sambal rat was in Suluweisi. Westerners and more particularly, western WOMEN seem to be repulsed at the idea of eating a rat for supper, even one spiced and properly cooked. In the photo above, the rats have been washed and the hair has been burned off and they’re ready for the next phase.
The rat is then gutted and butchered in preparation for the table. (above) and put into a marinade (below) to impart spice and flavor prior to being cooked. Usually in good street stalls, the rat is marinaded overnight without refrigeration. Care is taken to keep flies off the meat. In less than good street stalls, flies cover the meat, but they sell it anyway.

The entrails are retained but I have no idea how they are used. I’m sure that they make their way into some sort of ‘street chicken soup’. You’d hope that they’d evacuate the bowels before including the guts in soup — but it may be too much to ask.

Nobody likes undercooked rat. It’s a lot like undercooked chicken in that regard. 
No, not chicken

As is illustrated above, cooking them in oil is the preferred method of preparation. The problem with many street stands that serve rat (usually on a stick, but not necessarily) is that the oil that they use to cook the rat is old and dirty. That can impart a fishy taste, the taste of fried cockroach or whatever went into the oil previously. Preferred rat stands only serve rat so the oil is going to be a bit rancid but it will taste like the previous rats that were cooked in it.

Catering to tourist’s preconceived notions of Chinese Cuisine, it’s common for local cooks to cover the “chicken” with sweet and sour sauce or a ginger curry sauce. In Szechuan (a province in China), it’s often covered with sambal sauce and is quite hot. However you prefer your Chinese “street chicken”, you can be assured that they were raised in a sustainable way….in the Shanghai sewers.

“The food tastes good so you don’t complain – but that’s not chicken in your chicken chowmein.”

28 thoughts on “Tastes Like Chicken

  1. Perfect preparation for Lent. I've had to speak harshly (something I really hate to do) with LSP over pictures of dead animals and birds. Do I need to do the same with you? The sight of dead animals can ruin my entire day. And rats? Bottom of that proverbial barrel.

    I just thank God in Heaven that you did not have pictures of dead cats.

  2. I presume that the photos of BBQ'd cats in China should remain OFF my blog? I will do it for you.

    But you live in Idaho, land of road kill, home of robust deer hunting (deer on the hood, deer in the back of the pick-up, etc. How do you handle it?

    Yesterday a thread ran through the blog to the extent that the French would eat anything. I've never seen rat served up in France, though they do excel in frogs and snails. I took that as a challenge, so embarked on this pictoral journey in how one gets Shanghai street rat from the sewer to the table in the form of "Chinese street chicken".

  3. P. S. Adrienne, I even threw in a scripture for you and LSP. — No mention of that and how the blog has taken on a more uplifting tone because of it? (I think that I may be wounded)

  4. Could we sell Shanghai Street Chicken to hungry Walmart shoppers in search of a deal?

    What if we told them that Hillary Clinton likes it because, "you are what you eat"?

  5. France is also partial to horse meat, too. Served as steak. As for the entrails of the rats, perhaps they use them to catch other rats. Regardless, I will stick with my Waffle House and Burger Kings.

  6. Shrug… Eaten worse… DADT was in vogue LONG before Gay liberation… Especially for those who 'journeyed' to countries far and wide. We generically called it monkey meat on a stick! 🙂

  7. Ugh, No experience with sewer raised meat, here, and no desire to expand my food knowledge in that direction.

  8. You can never go wrong with waffles and bacon. Eaten together (along with butter and maple syrup), it's proof positive that God loves us. (remember, this is technically a food sermonette)…

  9. I have comments in that realm but this is a 'family blog'. Thus, as with you, I take the 5th on most of it.

  10. My first experience with "exotic" foods was in South America where I happened across a couple strangling a dog so they could throw it on the barbie. Protein is protein. Dog or cat or rat is not a particularly sweet meat since it usually tastes of whatever it happens to have eaten. I'd think Szechuan style rat would at least make rat edible.

  11. Well how delightful. Yum yum. Rat-for-twoee.
    It actually looks very tasty on the final plate but knowing what I know now I shall never eat from a street again. If I go to China, I'm taking monster munch.

  12. Years ago in Borneo, I had some mystery meet I could not identify. Thanks to this post I do believe I now know what I ate then. Thank you for the revelation…. now get the hell outta my way to the porcelain swirl bowl.

  13. So long as you don't knowingly eat the head off the rat – or flossing your teeth with the tail, I think that you're justified in claiming that you didn't know it was rat.

  14. When you consider that cats aren't around to chase the rats in China and neither are terriers, the only predator left is man, and the Chinese have stepped up admirably. A lot of Chinese people feel that a bowl of rice and a little rat meat is a banquet. Sad.

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