Grub Wine to Dog…Man’s Not-so-Best Lunch!

It’s been a while since I have posted anything, but yesterday saw some events that you all should know about: dog really doesn’t taste that good. Whoa, wait a second, maybe I should relate the story first…

Yum, yum! Only if they knew what happens once they pass that gate...

Yum, yum! Only if they knew what happens once they pass that gate...

I’ve been regularly going out into the field now interviewing borrowers, so it’s nice to actually be doing some good work. After riding the bus for an hour and sitting on the back of a motorbike and cruising down a dike road my translator and I arrived at the house of a one Ms. Nguyen Thi Chien. Her story isn’t that exciting: she raises pigs and has a fish pond. While the fish pond is different than most borrowers, it wasn’t that exciting. What was exciting and a curve ball I wasn’t expecting was how I was received at the house.

To preface it, I arrived to her house with Tuan my translator and another borrower who showed us where to find her. This woman yelled into the house to find Ms. Nguyen, and instead a a girl around the age of 5 waddled out of the house with her big toe sticking through her right sock, crying her head off. Apparently we woke her up…wouldn’t you cry too if it happened to you? and she wanted her mommy. A few minutes later Ms. Nguyen came running from somewhere, where I’m not sure.

After sitting down like a typical interview, next to the family ancestral altar, her husband joined us. Typically I am served green tea in shot glasses, this time I was served lotus tea, which was quickly replaced with wine, rice wine that is. The husband wanted me to try some wine he had made, so as a good guest I accepted. This was no wine I had ever seen before.

Grub Wine! Look closely and you'll see the grubs throughout...mmm

Grub Wine! Look closely and you'll see the grubs throughout...mmm

Mr. Nguyen brought out the rattiest, dirtiest, and weirdest looking jug of stuff I’ve ever seen. Who knows how strong it is, 80 proof, 120 proof? He opened it and poured some into my shot glass. It smelled…a lot like strong alcohol and herbs; but it was the appearance that was interesting: it was a syrupy yellow steeping in what looked like various roots and plants. As I was holding the jar, I noticed something else in the mix: hu- mother-fing-mungous grubs. Eyes, legs, and all. They were at least 4 inches long and consisted of about one-third the mass of stuff in the jug.

But don’t get me wrong! This didn’t phase me at all. I sipped that stuff down and in fact had seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths of it through the rest of my stay. Drunk with grubs. Yay!

After the interview was finished we were invited to stay for lunch. I’ve had a few traditional Vietnamese lunches in homes, but after the grub juice, I should’ve realized this lunch would be different from others I’ve had. Word quickly spread around the village that a foreigner was having lunch with the Nguyen’s (one of many, Nguyen is actually the most common surname). One man told me he was a dog meat vendor, and told me I needed to eat dog meat, it was good for my virility. With that, he matter-of-factly sent a boy to his shop to bring back his favorite dish: dog curry with cooked bananas.

Could you ever eat a face like this?! I won't ever again! That's for sure. Poor, poor Mr. Sanchez

Could you ever eat a face like this?! I won't ever again! That's for sure. Poor, poor Mr. Sanchez

The bananas looked inviting, and I enjoyed those, but it was the dog meat that was weird for me. I’m pretty sure when I was in Africa I had dog meat at one point, so I thought I’d be ok with it this time. In Vietnam, apparently, the best pieces of any animal are the weirdest ones. For example, Vietnamese love eating the butt of the chicken. Why you may ask? It makes your hair blacker. Blacker? I thought their hair was black enough? Meh! Anyway, the first bit of dog meat plopped in my bowl I quickly refused: the paw of he dog! Nails, skin, hair, and all! It was too reminiscent of, well you know, a dog. I like dogs too much, so I requested non-descript meat, because then I don’t know where it came from off the animal and thus won’t picture in my head a dog running around with his paw chopped off.

The next piece of dog meat offered to me: the tail…still not non-descript! And furthermore, there’s meat on the tail? What was I suppose to do, gnaw on the spinal cord, which is exactly what the tail is? Mr. Nguyen, took that one off my hands. It wasn’t until my third piece of meat, that I finally agreed to taste the dog. Who knows what part of the animal it came from, possibly somewhere on the leg? Anyway, dog meat has a very unique flavor; it’s quite rich and definitely doesn’t taste like chicken. It tastes simply like nothing else, so I guess you could say it taste like dog. As I was eating the meat I just kept thinking about Caymus and Massena, my dad’s two dogs. I’m not made to eat dog, for us dogs are family, here dogs are food or pest control.

Trứng vịt lộn: Hard-boiled, fetal duck eggs. Make sure you get the tone right; if not, 'lon' is the word for pussy, and not the cat kind.

Trứng vịt lộn: Hard-boiled, fetal duck eggs. Make sure you get the tone right; if not, 'lon' is the word for pussy, and not the cat kind.

The entire time we had lunch, we were also putting down shots of the grub wine. When that ran out, Mr. Nguyen reached under his TV stand and pulled out a big 5-gallon jug of some more wine which he still poured into the grub jug. Since I was closest to this jug I saw what was inside of it: a snake! Snake Wine is actually a Vietnamese culinary delicacy, but this snake was giant; it was coiled up inside the entire 5-gallon jug. Turns out it was a cobra that Mr. Nguyen had found in his field. He waited for it to come out of it’s hole and killed it so he could make snake wine. Yum. Unfortunately, I didn’t try this wine because I was already getting drunk and had two more clients to interview after lunch. I would’ve tried it otherwise though!

Vietnam is known for it’s crazy food, and this day was a prime example of it’s famous fare. If you’re ever in this country you should try all of this for on your own, and I’ve barely touched upon what else I’ve eaten here: fetal duck eggs, animal intestines, pig heart, stir-fried silk-worms…

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One Response to “Grub Wine to Dog…Man’s Not-so-Best Lunch!”

  1. Kriszta Says:

    Wow, Nate, you are one brave soul.. That’s all I can comment at the moment. Still trying to digest this bit of information to be honest =P Great post!

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