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Rats?

This may be a stupid question...despite the hoary admonition that the "only stupid question is the unasked question"...but are there any restaurants somewhere in the U.S. for adventurous Andrew Zimmern types that serve rat? I remember a news item from approximately 20 years ago that told of a fast food type restaurant in Asia (Hong Kong, if I remember right) where rats were served in the same way that chicken was served at Kentucky Fried. The selling point was that they served big country rats as opposed to city rats.

Obviously, there isn't going to be a long line among the general populace in the U.S. for fried, diced or stewed rat anytime soon, but I'm just wondering if it's a legal question, a question of cleanliness, or simply the cultural revulsion we in America (for the most part, I guess) have at the idea of consuming rats, whether they come from the country or the city?

Then again, I guess if anyone really got a hankering for rat, they could just put out a trap somewhere, wait awhile, and then cook up their "catch" in a Wok like Zimmern did recently in a remote part of Thailand (tail, bones, and all).

Enquiring minds want to know!

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    1. re: small h

      If this woman had decided to open a restaurant specializing in rat it would be less annoying than this "art project" for folks who think "eating a rat will make them a more interesting person." Especially since they just ordered them through the mail from a laboratory supply house! Gah. New York City at its worst.
      And I'm not clutching my pearls about eating rats because I keep them as pets (which I do) - most rats that aren't pets don't live long happy lives. If you want to eat a rat, eat a rat. Just don't thump your chest about what a goddamned extreme rebel you are for doing it.

      1. re: ratgirlagogo

        My reaction to that story went like this: 1) Ew. 2) Yawn.

        Then again, if all bad art were edible, we could end world hunger in twenty minutes.

        1. re: small h

          And how. But I'm romantic enough to believe that even if edible, bad art would not provide any real physical sustenance, since it provides a kind of negative spiritual sustenance.

          1. re: small h

            as an art school grad, I believe, I HAVE to believe, the time spent among pretentious fucks and bad art (including many pieces involving food, animals and roadkill - Damian Hirst was popular at the time) is going to be refunded, if not in this life, then in purgatory.

            "Ben, the two of us need look no more
            We both found what we were looking for
            With my friend to call my own I'll never be alone
            And you my friend will see, you are a meal for me"

            1. re: hill food

              Unlike Willard, who was a meal for Ben. ;)

            1. re: ratgirlagogo

              Brava...especially when it's a breeder-raised animal prepared by a chef and for which you coughed up $100 a head. Yeah, that makes you some kinda badass.

              I also didn't miss the fact that all these folks paid $100, but yet the chef's budget was $400 -- he blew his budget...but that seems pretty skewed, even if it is "art" (annoying airquotes).

              1. re: small h

                Ugh - I couldn't get past the first paragraph or the first picture of that article.

                I guess as a pet-rat fancier, I just can't get past killing such intelligent creatures for something as stupid & egotistical as "artistic expression". Starvation is one thing; what this woman is doing is idiotic, egotistical, cruel, & nothing but blatant sensationalism.

              2. Maybe you could get some Nutria in cajun country, it's more or less an overgrown rat

                1. Not rat, but La Mar in San Francisco (a US location of a Peruvian chain) serves guinea pig (with advance notice). They have a New York location also but I don't know if the serve guinea pig there.

                  1. I've eaten several highly suspicious meat meals in India. Learned not to ask what the ingredients were and wouldn't be surprised is I consumed some of the little rodent varmints.

                    1. Seeing how rats will eat everything, can't imagine what the meat is like. The muskrat that I fixed at a civil war reenactment closely resembled dark, slightly gamey chuck roast, and they are mostly plant eaters. I live outside of D.C. and I I'm refilling three bait stations every other month. I'd rather wait until I have to choose a sauce for my 'Norway'.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: 3MTA3

                        I had never heard of the Nutria until a year or so ago. I think in New Orleans they have a "posse" that drives around shooting Nutrias, which are proliferating in the canals of the area. And yes, they do look nauseating (I think seeing "Willard" as a kid must have unhinged me).

                        I've always wanted to travel to India, but the local cuisine would, I think, be daunting. I saw one travel show that indicated the only way to be truly safe there was to eat nothing but bread and beans (or some variation of lentils). I always admired Bourdain after seeing the episode where he went to India and bought (and ate) food from a street vendor--- brains, if I remember right. My thought at the time was, "Mister, you're a better man than I..."

                        1. re: legsdiamond12

                          Still...I have eaten rabbit, which I think is a form of rodent, without deleterious effect. It didn't make any great impression upon me-- it's ok with me if I live out the rest of my life without ever eating rabbit again--- but there was nothing about it repellent or sickening. Maybe because the image we have of rabbits is a warm and fuzzy one, and rats are filthy things that crawl through sewers and chew through concrete with long, yellow teeth?

                          1. re: legsdiamond12

                            rabbits are herbivores, and they are NOT considered rodents - they are lagomorphs, a different order altogether (they have four incisors in the upper jaw, compared to only two for rodents)

                            rats are not only omnivores, they thrive on the nasty stuff left behind by the rest of the world.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Which is why they will be here long after all of us are gone.

                              1. re: Tripeler

                                which just underscores why I have no particular urge to consume one.

                                Do we as a race ever consume carnivores (or even omnivores) on a regular basis? Fish obviously, but I'm talking about land-based creatures. Bear is the only thing I can think of, but even that wouldn't really fall under "on a regular basis".

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Chickens and pigs come to mind. Obviously not if they are confined and fed a vegetarian diet but they are omnivores if given the opportunity.

                                  1. re: kengk

                                    People regularly eat frogs and turtles, and maybe snakes, alligators, and other reptiles, most of which are carnivores.

                                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                                      but frogs and turtles eat mostly insects and fish (which I excluded) -- and while I'll concede snakes and alligators, I'm not sure they're on the "eaten on a regular basis" list for most of the human race.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        You excluded fish as carnivores, not as the carnivores' food, but whatever. If the question is now whether most of the human race regularly eats any animals that mostly eat what we typically consider to be "meat" (i.e. mammals and birds), then I suppose the answer has to be "no". But I don't think we avoid them specifically because they are carnivores, but because they are not plentiful, not farmable, not worth the effort/expense/danger, not legal, or just not as tasty as other foods that are available.

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    pigs pigs and more pigs. pig's kill and eat a human given half a chance.

                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                      but humans (or other meat) isn't on the menu at most farms.

                                      Even wild boar tend toward plants, although they certainly won't turn up their nose at anything...

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        every year a farmer or two dies from a hog...

                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                          ...usually because he got between a sow and her litter, or a boar who's just "meaner'n hell" in the local patois

                                          Grew up in hog country - know fully well that they are not cute lovable Wilburs. They're foul-tempered and fully-armed.

                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                      Wild boar in many parts of the world. Dog and cat meat in various parts of Asia.

                                      Also, domestic pigs and chickens as others have noted. On factory farms they have a controlled diet, but those raised in less confined areas are certainly eating any small animals they can get.

                                      1. re: mpjmph

                                        There has been a very recent backlash against it but it would still not be uncommon to find meat and bone meal or the popular "poultry by products" in commercial hog or chicken rations. A great many chicken fanciers insist on animal protein for their birds.

                                        Interesting to me is that some breeds of chickens are renowned for their mousing prowess, the Buckeye in particular. I know that my birds will race each other across the yard to fight over any bug or lizard that they see.

                                        1. re: kengk

                                          I've seen groups of hens take care of frogs with great efficiency. No doubt they would be good mousers.

                                          1. re: kengk

                                            My city girl hens lived in perfect harmony with the mice that moved in to their pen.

                                  3. re: legsdiamond12

                                    And his cousin the squirrel,a rodent skinned and sauteed by many a hunter (and yes, to the smart-asses, a squirrel is a rodent---I just now looked it up). The big fluffy tail is sort of a nice diversion of our attention but, take that away.....

                              2. Don't know of anyplace that serves rats or sells the meat, but I do have a few recipes. There's a cookbook, Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, whose authors try to include most of the meals mentioned in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series about life in the Napoleonic British navy. One of the meals is ship's rats: the authors claim that the rats (lab rats they had raised and butchered for them) were very tasty, more so than rabbit, especially with petit pois on the side.

                                1. Corner BYOB in Baltimore serves Muskrat, in season.

                                  http://www.cornerbyob.com

                                  1. Too bad James Cagney couldn't come back and be a food critic, though apparently he never said "You...dirty rat!"

                                    1. If you can get your hands on nutria, beaver or porcupine I imagine they would give you a hint of what rat would taste like. Do people still consume doormouse?

                                      1. I can't believe nobody has mentioned squirrels as a substitute for rats. Not that uncommon as table fare in certain areas of the U.S.

                                        1. Larousse Gastronomique, page 762, "...Rats nourished in the wine stores of the Gironde were at one time highly esteemed by the coopers, who grilled them, (after having dressed them) on a fire of broken barrels, and seasoned them with a little oil and plenty of shallots. This dish, which was then called cooper’s entrecôte , would be the origin of the entrecôte à la bordelaise... " Also "Gancel's Culinary Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking"

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: 3MTA3

                                            Sounds like as dignified an ending as a rat should wish for.

                                            1. re: 3MTA3

                                              I can imagine a grilled rat would be pretty fine eating for somebody who had limited access to other meat.

                                              I eat squirrels every year or two just to stay true to my heritage but they are really no great prize. We have a bumper crop this year so I'm already making plans. It's kind of a "Watership Down" thing. After they get finished eating all the pecans in my trees I shoot three or four of them to make Brunswick Stew.

                                              Rats seem much less athletic than squirrels so I would guess they would fatten up and be more tender given good rations.

                                            2. Well, believe it or not, I have actually eaten rat. When I was a grad student at Kansas State University (1966) I and another Endocrinology grad were doing experiments with lab rats. For some reason, we got to wondering how they would taste seeing as how they were raised on commercial feed and not garbage. We sacrificed a big male, dressed him out and fried him over a bunsen burner and took a taste. It was awful.
                                              Bob

                                              1. Isn't rat a low protein meat? Somewhere I've read this. Maybe this applies only to Norwegian rats?

                                                So, there might not be a good reason to eat rat as a part of one's diet.

                                                You know, I wouldn't eat rat or rattlesnake or any vermin, unless I was starving. I'm bowing out of this thread with this post. Yuk.

                                                1. Well, if rats, rodents and the like were truly tasty to most people, they would be a much larger part of our diet by now.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                                    My friend's blog post (English version linked) has a photo of tinned nutria (ragondin) pate.
                                                    http://www.webflakes.com/wine/liquid-...

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      Well, in my opinion Nutria is closer to Muskrat than the little Norway rats this idiotic woman who's doing her "rat-fest" is using.

                                                      While it doesn't appeal to me, there are plenty of people who find Muskrat - & Nutria - tasty.

                                                  2. I can't see eating Rats catching on in the USA, ( it's simply a mental thing I would think. Shudder at the thought) but reading this thread I was reminded of the nicely butterflied and grilled Rats I spotted some years ago at a busy market in Uthai Thani/Thailand - see picture.
                                                    I couldn't get myself to try one of those, but the curried Agouti ( another rodent) I ate in Guyana was not bad at all.

                                                     
                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: RUK

                                                      I have yet to see any references that they're particularly tasty, nor worth the hassle of cleaning and cooking!

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        I agree. Although those in my picture did smell yummy.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          the mid 70's edition of the Joy of Cooking details the glands that need to be removed before cooking from muskrats, squirrels etc.

                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                            Yeah, there are musk glands are right behind the front legs, throat, and back legs. It all depends on which animal you've caught. Squirrels have glands behind the armpits, where muskrats, beaver, and nutria have musk glands all over, and rabbits have anal glands.

                                                            Plus you have to be certain you don't puncture the bladder while you're field dressing them.

                                                            Oh and as for rats, I've never had the desire, nor any inclination to field dress one for the plate...

                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                Heh, accidentally leaving the glands on a piece of game meat can definitely ruin a recipe beyond all recovery (adios stew), and it's a mistake most of us small game hunters have made a few times (although we'd prefer not to admit it).

                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                              We used to have muskrats living in our front yard (I grew up on a lake)....they are definitely aptly named - -they stink!

                                                              Not sure how hungry I'd have to be to try to get past the aroma...hopefully I'll never have to find out.

                                                        2. I think the Zimmern episode was in Myanmar, not Thailand, and the rats were huge rice-fed monsters that lived in the paddies, basically a cheap protein byproduct of rice farming. Don't see how anyone could object to rural-raised grain-fed meat. Regrettably I don't know of an American restaurant that serves rat, but if one existed it would probably be some kind of expensive big city scenester joint, which would defeat the whole purpose.

                                                          I love this question by the way. I'm a huge nerd for food production efficiency, and small scavenging omnivores like rats, pigeons, shrimp and catfish give us the best possible energy and protein conversion ratios (save insects and theoretical bacterial monocultures). A food source that eats our trash and turns it into protein and calories? With 7 billion jerks walking around on this planet we are gonna need these resources sooner rather than later guys. And after the cannibal wars of 2035 a scrawny rat will look like a juicy ribeye to the scurvy-addled survivors. So run a few tests for parasites and toxicity and I'll be first in line for rat-on-a-stick.