Over the past three weeks I have been in both Vietnam and Cambodia and it strikes me that for both countries, as in much of Asia, the phrase “waste not want not” is very real, as the daily struggle to put food on the table means everything is considered… and I mean everything. Little did I know three weeks ago that frogs with the skin on, embryo eggs and chicken feet were only the beginning.
While cycling to the beach one day in Hoi An, Vietnam we passed through fields of rice. Our cycling guide explained the cultivation technique and some of the challenges farmers face, including the problem posed by snails. “How do you control them?” I asked. “We eat them” he replied. Simple. He pulled up a rice plant with snail eggs to show us, whereupon I had visions of dozens of women in the fields tending the young rice plants while gobbling down snail eggs and snails like children on a strawberry picking adventure. Perhaps Canada could learn a thing or two about non-chemical pest management practices.
We eat caviar (well some of us) so snail eggs aren’t much of a stretch but on our last day in Vietnam we visited a market in Hanoi and the education began. Turtles. Not unusual. Turtle soup is familiar to most. It was the other ones; the ones you don’t see; the ones hanging next to the cage.
The ones with their throats slit while the blood drains. It was the turtle blood juice for sale that made me uneasy. “Good for libido” our guide told us, “snake blood good for libido too”. My appetite was waning.
I recalled a news article in early 2014 about a man found in the Pacific Ocean who had been lost at sea for 13 months. He claimed to have survived on turtle blood. I can’t think how that poor sod must have felt adrift at sea with his libido racing for over a year!
It was closing in on lunch time and our mighty cycling leader was feeling peckish. He chose bull testicle and penis soup. ” Good for libido” he advised. He also spent most of the cycling trip feeding us candied ginger en route and a variety of other more common snacks that, again, were “good for libido”. It seems the Vietnamese spend quite a bit of time catering to the culinary preferences of their libidos.
Fortunately for you, I couldn’t post the photo of the big bowl of bull testicles, as it isn’t properly in focus. Even the photo of the hanging bull penises, below isn’t completely clear. Perhaps it was all the male cyclists behind me jockeying for position to try the miracle libido-booster that jostled my camera. After having some of the soup, I think I heard one of them mention that he thought he could feel the virility pulsing through his veins. I’ll refrain from comment.
What do you do in Cambodia while sitting in your beach hut when you need a snack? There are no ice cream or gelato stands, no chip trucks or stalls selling kettle corn or back bacon on a bun. How do you satisfy that craving? Why with a bag of silkworms, crickets, or assorted aquatic benthic invertebrates of course! Certainly a great way to curb your hunger and tide you over until dinner. The silkworms were selling like hotcakes. A lady with a basket-full on her hip wandered through the crowd flogging them, not unlike a hot dog seller at a baseball game. Crickets though, may have that crunchiness you prefer.
I began to pay more attention to anything that moved. “What about this lovely lizard on the ground?” I asked one day while wandering through an ancient temple. “Would you eat that?” I asked my new Cambodian cycling guide. “Of course” he replied. “But not much meat, you must eat many”.
I didn’t try the Vietnamese libido-enhancers or the Cambodian beach snacks. Lost opportunities, you might be thinking. As most of my friends know, I am not one to pass up opportunities to try new things, but when spending the bulk of each day on a bike, I think it was wise that a precautionary approach prevailed.
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