July 18, 2012

ARNABites: Rat Race

On my last evening in the picturesque village of Yangshuo, I found an elusive item on the menu and quickly ordered it. My finger pointed to the entry for rat cooked within a bamboo shoot. The restaurateur shook her head, "Don't have." She suggested I come back tomorrow. I would leave early next morning, so this was not an option. She saw the dismay etched on my ruggedly handsome face. Her brother was summoned to take me to the market to look for some rodent, but none was to be found that night.

Years passed, and I found myself wandering through a night market in Taipei. My Taiwanese friend spotted a restaurant that would surely interest me. Cages full of snakes and mice welcomed the diner at the entrance. Was rat on the menu? My friend checked the menu and answered in the affirmative, but after speaking with the waiter he served up some unfortunate news.

My feelings of elation evaporated upon hearing that the rodents they served were out of stock for the next few days. I would have left Taiwan by the time the next shipment would arrive. What of the mice on display outside? Those were only for feeding the snakes and not for direct human consumption. The proprietor said there were no other rat restaurants around.

Dejected, we kept walking until finding another snake restaurant. A restaurant worker was loudly promoting the powers of the soup to all passersby. My friend asked if they sold rat. The seller of snake soup was not impressed, advising us to "Be practical. Eat normal things, not crazy things." My quest for a mouse would not end this night.