Traditional Vietnamese food is tasty, but when fused with the French influences to be found in the many sensational restaurants, it is simply sensational. It is maybe an exaggeration to state that there is not an epicure’s on the planet who will be disappointed with the food in Vietnam, but not much of an exaggeration.
Readers who are upset by cruelty to animals are advised against reading this paragraph. In a country where every endangered species is on the menu, dogs, cats and snakes are consumed with relish. Vietnamese tradition holds that dog meat is unsuitable for consumption by women, as it breeds lust and should thus only be eaten by men, who are espoused as the only gender in which lust is an acceptable feeling. In the past the meat was tenderised by very slowly beating the dog to death with a rubber mallet, but these days restaurants are generally too busy to do this, unless diners specially request them to do so and are willing to pay extra for the service.
Snakes are displayed tangled like spaghetti in cages, so diners can select a serpent that takes their fancy. Part of the entertainment is watching the waiter reach in to extract the snake, for which he will expect a better tip if he eschews gloves. A favourite dish is for the chef to cut a living cobra’s heart out at the table and for the diner to then swallow it, still beating, in a glass of rice wine. Black cat kebab is also to be found on menus, supposedly due to its efficacy as a dish that can cure all sorts of ailments. Don’t bother to try testing this claim though, as virtually none of the cats on the menu will be black, due to this type of cat, along with many species of animal, having been almost exterminated in the cooks’ pots. The terrified animals in the cages behind the restaurant, smelling their recent companions’ blood and wondering whether it’s their turn next, have mostly brown fur.
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