[Ben sez]: The plethora of animals which are available at restaurants throughout the region is staggering, and while the list of "Creatures Ben et Nate Have Consumed" doesn't quite live up to the standard of "eating anything with four legs except the table" it is, as you can imagine, not too short either.
Buckets of Prawns: I'm sure you're thinking Prawns? That's not very adventurous. but I figured I'd start on the boring end of the scale. The real shocker here is the volume of prawns which we have consumed (especially Nate), the quality, and the do-it-yourself attitude one must take to eating prawns in this region. We've had shrimp, whole-prawns (head on), and most excitingly whole, live prawns with a stick shoved through them in an uncomfortable looking manner for our grilling delight. Far be it from us to freak out at live shellfish and a charcoal grill, in fact it usually leads to us slapping some still-moving prawns on the grill and taunting them at the table thusly:
Us: Oh no Mr. Shrimpy, what's going on? Is someone grilling you over a blazing hot fire? Look at your little antennae getting all crispy! (Mr. Shrimpy lets out a tiny shrimpy scream of agony and writhes in pain until cooked to sweet, tender, delicious perfection.)
[Nate sez]: Thailand has the finest cooking shrimp/prawns in the world. The smaller U30 to U20 varieties are always so tender, sweet, and with an almost fluffy texture. Did I mention that they're like, the healthiest thing around? And those big-ass 111 grams a piece (or U2) prawns, marinated in honey, fish sauce, and love will make you lose control of your bowels. And your bowls.
The other delight of giant prawns is having to pop their heads off, which releases a nice little orange ooze which makes a perfect accompaniment to their tasty flesh.
[Nate sez]: To our great fortune, we met a local food/bev freak at a Bia Hoi joint we frequented in Saigon. His name is Bang. I like this guy, no, I might actually love him. He showed us some of the finest food we've ever consumed for prices too low list. In particular, he took us to a goat restaurant where they serve three things: Goat charcoal grill with herbs, raw veg, and rice paper with God sauce, Goat brain and kidney soup, and some other goat concoction that was not communicated to us properly. If you are in Vietnam and see De Noung, you have found the goat grill. In fact Noung indicates the preparation described below.
We also stumbled across a massive joint where they serve most of Earth's edible creatures (and some that aren't) in this manner. They bring out a heavy stone bucket with holes in it, filled to the brim with searing hot charcoal. Next, they stick a metal grate on top, bring out some marinated meat, fresh herbs and veg, some dipping sauce, and set you loose on one of the most deeply satisfying, delicious, and fun meals you'll ever have. It's usually less than 3 to 4 dollars for a plate of meat which goes a long way.
If you've ever done Korean BBQ - this is like that, only much better. Mostly because unlike South Korea, in Vietnam they let whitey get down and dirty figuring out how to grill his/her own meat. Here's a tragically brief overview of some of lucky critters to die for our cause:
Rabbit: You think Europe has the market cornered on rabbit and hare with that glorious, thick, wine soaked French country-style rabbit stew they make? Well, maybe. But Viet-marinated Bugs Bunny cooked over hot coals on your table has very few rivals.
Crocodile: It was on the menu. We'd had a few drinks. It sucks okay? And it doesn't taste like chicken either.
[Ben sez]: It tastes more like white, chewy amphibious river pork. I had to check it off of my whitey list of things to eat while in SE Asia, okay?
Dog: Yes. We fell victim to the availability of Poochy in SE Asia - the curiosity was just too much. We were on our way to a seafood restaurant with some local friends during our last night in Saigon. We mentioned our curiosity and soon were heading for a street stand to pick up some dog to go.
[Nate sez]: In A Bag! The most legit doggy bag I've ever seen in my life!
We got to the seafood joint and they were kind enough to plate up our barbecued dog and steamed dog sampler. The BBQ dog was really, really good. I'd eat it again. Steamed dog tasted like old, wet, angry Australian mutton. But what are you going to do? The seafood was incredible. And criminally cheap. Think less than 16 dollars for 5 people to fill to the brim on mussels, clams, grilled sea snails, oysters, shrimp, and lots of beer.
Though we could ceaselessly vamp about Vietnam (more specifically Saigon), you no doubt understand that it is most likely, the most important food destination in SE Asia. Then again, Chiang Mai rules.
...and we haven't been to Singapore yet.