I always refer to a Chinese lunch as an “MSG party” – an expression learned from Monkey. Kuba prefers the sobriquet “China dog”.
Today I was walking back to the office after my MSG party, which had consisted of Szechuan tofu and steamed rice. My mind was meandering and somehow got to a place where I was wondering if I would know if I were eating dog and how I would recognise it. So during the course of the afternoon, I did a bit of research. And I can tell you, time well spent.
Most of the culinary descriptions I found were written by westerners who had dined on dog somewhere in Asia. Most of the time they did not know what breed of dog they were eating, or they wrote only that it was a type of dog bred locally and specifically for food. All of them had enjoyed their meals.
One man dined on boshin-tang (dog meat soup) in Seoul, South Korea. “The texture is almost like mutton. It has a fatty taste and is very chewy.”
Another man dined on thit cho hap in Vietnam. The dog flesh was steamed, sliced and each piece wrapped in a leaf, which he then dipped into a sauce of shrimp paste, chilli and vinegar. A “dark heavy flavour” seeps through the spices in the sauce… it is “more similar to veal or beef than to chicken or pork, and it carries a stronger bite.”
A woman had dog hotpot somewhere in China. She reported that the texture was like beef, but not as tough and “quickly softening.” The flavour was “surprisingly mild…just like eating a nice piece of beef, but leaner and more tender, and with more small bones.”
I knew that my minder had travelled widely in Asia so I asked her if she had ever eaten dog. She reported that she and her husband had eaten dog by accident in a Korean BBQ restaurant in Hong Kong. She said the texture was sinewy, like rabbit, but that it was smooth and very nice.
I also came across two non-Asian canine dishes. Danish dachshund is like rabbit, dry venison or veal (only drier), and it is recommended that you sauté or grill it and cut it into thick slices. Whilst tenderloin of Bichon Frise, done medium rare, tastes “like an odd cross between pork and beef.”
Dobrou chuť! Bon appétit!
** Update **
Jono quite rightly chastised me for not asking Christian before I wrote this post. So I asked Christian afterwards, and he was kind enough to add all of the following.
“Aha. Well my experience was similar to the Vietnamese one you describe, but would add that:
– “a bottle of homemade rice wine was served with the meal I ate. It was consumed in shots, like vodka, and was strong and clean-tasting. By the end of the meal I was hammered.
– “the dog itself arrived on a single plate, but in three forms: slices of flesh (looked and tasted like beef or venison); heaped over the top of the flesh, slices of liver (pungent, dark); and around the edge of the plate, dog blood pudding, the intestines stuffed with organs and blood (very tasty, very rich, very highly seasoned – again a bit like game).
– “the type of dog was described to me as a “rice dog”, which I think means a wild dog that lives in the paddy fields and eats rats and other small mammals that live in the fields.
– “accompanying the meat was the shrimp paste (dark bruised purple colour, thick); huge bowls of herbs and leaves for wrapping up the meat before dipping; raw lemongrass, raw ginger, raw chillis, other condiments like vinegar and chilli sauce.
– “the restaurant was a big concrete room with strip lights, plastic tables and chairs and the kitchen within the room, separated by bamboo screens. There were lots of dogs in the restaurant begging for scraps, including cute puppies.
– “my fellow diner, a Vietnamese restaurant owner who had taken me to the place after I begged him, smoked half a pack of cigarettes during the meal, which cost about 2 quid for both of us.
– “dog meat should only be eaten in one half of the lunar month in Vietnam, otherwise it’s unlucky. Many places simply don’t sell it unless it is the right time of the month.”