Stir-Fried Rat Anyone?

Rat painting from China First Capital blog post

I was still drowsy from sleep early one morning when I heard a rustle and saw a brown flash dart across my kitchen counter. A rat. For sure. I then found some telltale signs in one of my cupboards – a plastic bag torn open and peanut skins littered all around.

My immediate thought was, “If only Chinese ate rats, there’d be fewer of them”. I’d always heard rats were one of the few animals that Chinese would not consider a meal-in-waiting.

Turns out, I was wrong about that, as this article I dug up from China Daily points out: Click here to read.

A lot of insight and wisdom, as well as the occasional bit of crackpot thinking, is contained in Chinese “chengyu”(成语), the often-ancient sayings still frequently used in daily speech. It’s no surprise that one such chengyu is used to promote the special virtues of eating rat. It avers “one rat is as nutritious as three chickens.”

That there’s zero empirical basis for this claim is clearly no impediment to its use.  A more considered chengyu would be “eat rat and catch all kinds of nasty diseases for which there is no known cure”.

The Cantonese are widely known as the most adventurous eaters in China. There are multiple chengyu about this as well, mainly variations on the theme that Cantonese will eat anything with four legs except a table, and anything that flies except a helicopter.

Rat meat is obviously an acquired taste in China, and not a common source of protein like, for example, dog meat. If it were more prized on the table, there’d be less chance of  encountering one in my kitchen cabinet.

Equally, though, there’d be more seriously ill Chinese. On balance, I’d rather have them thrive as domestic pests, than become a toxic part of the food chain.



1 thought on “Stir-Fried Rat Anyone?”

  1. I was once in a restaurant in Guilin with some Chinese friends who had ordered the meal. One of the dishes was a pinkish meat in a light stew with lotus bulbs and celery, but I couldn’t determine what the meat was. I asked, and there was some debate about it. Then one of them said to me “Chris we don’t know what the English word is for this animal. But it’s black and white, lives in the jungle, and eats bamboo. The chef has another one in the kitchen. Would I like to see it?” I would, and with pounding heart anticipating the disbelief of what I thought I was about to find, I ventured in. There, in a cage about a meter long by half wide and deep, was a….huge Rat. It was white, with a black tail. It was a Bamboo Rat, and they eat them in China’s South-West. But I’m rather more pleased it wasn’t what I had thought it might have been…

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