Your Virtual Mirage
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.”