It's a Man Eats Dog World

Yann and I have spent a whole week in Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived a few days before Margaux did, mainly so that we could rest before starting a full three weeks of tourist activities. Since our pace has been so slow, we knew we should pick it up when Margaux arrived, so that she got to maximize her sight-seeing time.

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), has already lived through thirty years of American presence, unsurprisingly, the backpacker district is fully equipped with anything a homesick westerner could possibly desire. Here in the sinful south, the skirts are shorter, the nails are longer and the hair is blonder. Although, that doesn't prevent Margaux's pale white skin from being a major attraction for the locals. Since she has arrived, the amount of attention we have recieved has augmented tenfold. We are always greeted with "Hello", and Margaux has even gotten a "Hello, you are beautiful, I love you" from a passing moto. Margaux even inquired if it was normal for people to rub your arm as they walk by. Sorry, our arms have never garnered such attention.

Margaux and I spent her first days in the city taking advantage of the shopping opportunities. Margaux ordered a tailor made suit, and we returned several times to the shop for fittings. We did all the other standard tourist things, drinking coconut milk, visiting the War Remnants Museum, the Reunification Palace, taking a ride in a cyclo and of course motorbike riding.

With only two nights left in the city, we had already agreed on our final two meals, one seafood dinner (a treat offered to us cheapies by Margaux) and a dog meat dinner. Since we wanted to end our time in the city with seafood, this left us with only one option, and we were now starting to regret having agreed on this adventurous meal. Dog meat eating in Ho Chi Minh city is not really out in the open for tourists to see. The restaurants, with good reason, do not set up in the tourist areas. With no dog restaurant listed in our Lonely Planet we sought out the directions from a small tourist office, who led us to a dark alley about 15 minutes walk away.

According to our Vietnamese friends in Hanoi, dog meat eating is a "guy thing". Typically men eat dog meet with their male friends and wash it down with lots of hard liquor, its kind of a wings and beer night equivalent. So when Margaux and I walked in with Yann, armed with our notepad on which our friends had written four dog meat dishes, we were greeted with a look of curiosity and mostly surprise. I crossed off the "dog stomach" and "dog soup" items from the list and pointed at the "fried dog meat" and "steamed dog meat". For a little bit more than 3$ we would get both dishes. They seemed to arrive very quickly and for once the portions appeared to be very generous.

Fried dog meat looks like any other fried meat, marinated in some sauce with a few sesame seeds. We very soon wished we had not ordered the steamed dog meat: thin slices of meat complete with large strips of fat and veins. The meat is served with a basket of greens and a purple coloured dipping sauce. The three of us sat staring at the meat, no sign of movement, until Yann reached for a piece of steamed meat and stuck the whole thing in his mouth. Margaux made the first move for a fried piece. I however seemed, against my will, to be frozen. Luckily for me, our neighbor at the table beside us stood up, grabbed a piece of steamed meat, wrapped it in a leaf and dunked it in the purple sauce handing it to me. I held it in my hand. Margaux and Yann might have eaten a few pieces in the meantime, I hadn't moved yet. Our neighbor came back to our table again, this time with a couple of shot glasses, what a relief. Feeling a little bit embarassed about still sitting there with the meat in my hand, I put it in my mouth. It only took me two bites to finish it. The shots of hard liquor were much appreciated.

We looked around and realised that the bottles of whisky and vodka were being consumed at all tables, Yann got up to find a convenience store and returned shortly with a 500mL bottle of Vietnamese vodka. During his departure, Margaux and I consumed quite a bit of the fried meat and we had made one very important discovery. Contrary to our original belief, it wasn't the dog meat that smelled and tasted awful, it was the mysterious purple sauce. Margaux and I concluded, with much certainty, that it smelled like a certain part of the female anatomy (Yann disagreed, thank God). Once the liquor started flowing, the meat seemed to go down much easier, we now understood the whole process of dog meat eating.

Men started getting up from their tables to share more shots of alcohol with us, and we returned the favour. By the end of the evening, men at a nearby table were getting up and feeding Yann random pieces of meat. Yes, actually feeding him, coming over with their chopsticks and sticking them right in Yann's mouth. Margaux and I were very thankful to be women. But our luck changed when they came over with gifts of random dog meat for both Margaux and I. I got a nice slice of steamed meat dunked in purple sauce and Margaux got a chunk of dark brown sausage. I am embarassed to say that I couldn't get mine down, and when the opportunity arose I discreetly got rid of it. Margaux got her chunk down, but she followed it up with a swig of vodka straight from the bottle. The men around could not believe it, first the white skin, then then swigging from the bottle, a dream woman.

What turned into a "small sampling of dog meat before dinner" turned into an entire evening activity. We finished the bottle of vodka, the two plates of meat and waved goodbye to the men at the restaurant who had witnessed something they had most likely never witnessed before.


supermatante said...

Salut à vos trois,alors si j'ai bien compris ce n'est pas des"hot dog" que vous avez mangé.Je vais quand même revoir le blog avec Éricka pour être bien certaine que j'ai bien lu.En tout cas j'ai pensé à Tatoo...Washh!!!À plus tard,après m'être bien informé...XXX

2par4 said...

Congratulations to the three new members of the K-9 club! Good play-by-play of the big evening. LOL. Yes, I REALLY did laugh out loud.

Geneviève said...

HA! I thought Steve would be jealous of you guys testing out dog meat (he LOVES trying out new and weird foods) but it turns out his love of LIVE dogs won out. He thinks they're too cute.

Gillian said...

Ohmygawd! I am laughing with tears in my eyes at this one. Now there's a story you can't hope to pick up at disneyworld! (I hope!)


Margox said...

Yes, the dog-eating was a great time and the meat was not bad at all. I don't think it does the purple sauce justice to compare it to any body part... it was horrible! I only tasted it about twice, but Em must have had more... she was getting imagined whiffs of it all throughout the next day!

Alex said...

Way to go guys! Sounds like fun, did you ask what kind of dog it was?

Hopefully not Shit-tzu!

Margox said...

Hey Alex! Don't worry, I'm 99.99% sure we didn't eat Shih-Tzu. We haven't seen "kinds" of dogs here. Just mutts and a lot of them are in pretty rough shape, not cute or cuddly. We're in Cambodia now, but I tried petting a cute puppy yesterday and he was pretty crusty... also didn't seem used to being touched by people.