Eating dog is often mocked as part of an ill-informed Asian stereotype. Whilst it’s true that eating dog in Vietnam is not a common practice and you’d definitely have to go out of your way to find it in Ho Chi Minh City, but once in a blue moon, it might just find you. As a group of teachers, we were delighted when our conversation class students wanted to take us out for dinner. We turned up ready to eat, drink and be merry at a restaurant in Thu Duc, on the outskirts of the city.
As we sat down, waiters brought over a few plates of meat. Our students, with mischievous looks in their eyes, informed us that we were about to start eating dog. Honestly, it was a mind-over-matter kind of situation. At first, the idea of putting a piece of barbecued dog meat in my mouth made me shudder, but everyone else was doing it. I could almost hear my mother sarcastically asking me “if all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” I felt the fear and did it anyway. And… as it turns out, dog meat isn’t so bad! It all depends on how it’s cooked – there was some kind of dog meat sausage that tasted a bit grim, but the grilled stuff was pretty good. It tasted similar to pork.
Next up was a plate of snake eggs – unfertilised, thank goodness. They didn’t taste of much, but the rubbery texture meant that one was quite enough. Snake salad followed suit. To be honest, it was pretty unremarkable. I’d have believed you if you’d told me it was fish. As it turns out, you can go out the back of this restaurant and choose whichever snake you think looks extra juicy and delicious, and watch it being killed. Really gives farm-to-table a new meaning, doesn’t it?
Every good meal is followed by a little liquor: enter, snake blood wine. It’s probably never going to be the new tequila but again, it was all about mind over matter. It was just like drinking rice wine, only if left a bit of a rusty taste in my mouth afterwards. We were a little bit concerned that drinking the blood would be dangerous but our students insisted that it was fine – and reminded us that it’s said to improve virility – wink wink, nudge nudge. And the fun didn’t stop there: next up were chicken hearts and even better, feet. I was beyond being shocked by this point – or so I thought – but I couldn’t really understand the point of the chicken feet. It was all claw and no meat!
By this point, I thought I’d seen it all, but I was sorely mistaken. It was time for the grand finale: cow penis!
There are so many lewd jokes to be made about penis eating, but let me just say that a cow’s private parts are not a prime-grade cut. It was slimy, fatty and full of gristle. NOT a pleasant experience. It might not have been the most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten, but our eclectic feast was much more memorable than your standard bowl of pho. And isn’t that what travel is all about? If you want to place it safe, stick with McDonald’s.