Thursday, March 08, 2007

It started with a prawn

Part 2

Had dinner at one of those Shabu-Shabu restaurants in Puchong with my family, my aunt and cousins from Penang, and my uncle's & family, who live in Puchong.

What was supposed to be a normal dinner turned out to be the most bizarre conversation that ever took place.


It all began with my elder cousin Hean asking about the type of prawn that was served with the Sang Ha noodles we had at Pantai Seafood during the weekend, and whether were they fresh-water or sea-water prawns. My relatives went on to discuss about the types of prawns and how they were harvested.

Then my uncle started talking about catching frogs. He joked that to catch a frog, one needs to be very nimble. When the frog sticks out its tongue, use your bare hands to grab the frog's tongue!!! I imagined it to be really funny. Oto-san replied that frogs must be caught using bare hands, but it's not as easy as you think, as they can be really fast. One trick is to stun them by shining a torchlight directly at them at night.

(The next topic was apparently Cicadas, grasshoppers, cockroaches and other insects, of which I missed out the conversation coz I was busy eating, but I heard them talking about those people that eat them, especially those from Vietnam and Thailand)

Suddenly my uncle asked Oto-san if he's eaten dog meat. Oto-san exclaimed "Of course!"
Oto-san was a farmer's son, and the entire family lived around the hilly areas of Penang and Cameron Highlands before. Apart from dog and cat meat, they also had tasted some of what we call "exotic" meat such as monitor lizards, terrapins (sob sob), wild birds and monkeys. Cousin Hean then concluded that Oto-san is a real carnivore.

Oto-san said of all the meat he's tasted, cat meat is the nicest. There was one time a cat strayed into their old house in I assumed in Penang . Apparently my granduncle got so excited upon seeing the cat, he asked everyone to shut the doors to avoid the cat from getting out the house. It's anyone's guess what happened to that poor cat.

Oto-san also shared that whenever their house cooks dog meat for their neighbours, their own dogs will disappear for days. It's as if they know the family is eating their own kind!!! My aunt then mentioned that there is a park in Penang where she frequents whereby there were a lot of posters of missing dogs. Why? Coz apparently there are some Vietnamese people living near those areas. It's a known fact Vietnamese people eat dog meat, so we could probably guess that the owners should start giving up searching for their missing dogs, since it would have gone into the cooking pot anyway.

(There was a quick mention by my aunt about cows crying before they were being slaughtered coz they know they will die. Not sure how true is it though. How sad!)

My uncle asked Oto-san if he ate monkey meat before. Oto-san not only replied he's eaten monkey meat, he even mentioned what is the preferred cooking method (stewed) and how to catch monkeys. (Just set a simple trap by putting some food into a box strapped to some chains. When the monkey grabs the food through a hole in the box, they will be unable to remove their hands out from the box, and hence trapped). Oto-san said the monkeys were all very stupid, coz they always fall victim to the traps.

Oto-san further clarified he's never ate the brains of a live monkey, but he believes this so-called delicacy is still being served in some countries (including certain restaurants in Malaysia). It's really sad to hear about the process on how the monkey's skull is being sawn apart, and then one can still see the brain nerves still moving as one scoops to "savour" the disgusting brain.

Which brings us to the topic whereby my family were on holiday in Beijing during the mid 90's. The tour guide asked if we were interested to try out a speciality dish called "Live Fish" in one of the restaurants. Not knowing what is the dish, we said yes. It turned out to be fried fish, but the fish head was left uncooked, so we can still see the fish mouth still moving as we ate it. As I think back about it, it was really a cruel act and I really pitied the poor fish.

From monkey and fish, we moved on to chickens. Have you seen some of the comic strips whereby there's a kid being chased by a near-headless chicken? My uncle's actually seen those freaky chickens when he was young. It's because the poor chickens were not properly slaughtered, and they started running around without any direction, which I guess the term phrase "Like a headless chicken" come from.

(This part is going to sound so weird)

Suddenly my aunt recalled the process of castrating a cock . They use some sort of blade as fine as a piece of wire and castrate the poor cock just like that. After castrating the cock for its testicles, they apply some ash onto the wound and then release the cock. Apparently the cock will go about doing its business as if nothing happened, not realising it has now become a eunuch! We asked why people would want to castrate a cock. My aunt replied during their time, the testicles were used as offerings for the "Tian Gong" 天公 or Emperor of Heaven. Goodness! How many poor cocks' testicles have to be "harvested" every time they give thanks to the "Tian Gong". Also, it seems that testicle-less chickens taste better, as vouched by Oka-san and my uncle.

As if that's not enough, the chicken fat from the poor eunuch chicken also had medicinal properties as claimed by my aunt. Right after slaughtering a eunuch chicken, quickly remove its fat and put it in a bottle. Store the bottle in a cool, dry place. The chicken fat is good for treating burns. Just apply a piece of chicken fat onto the wound. My uncle claimed it actually worked, despite our unbelief.

Oka-san suddenly blurted out that when during she was young, she loved to grab chickens and feel their bums to check if they were going to lay eggs or not. She claimed she loved the warm feelings of a freshly laid chicken egg. Ototo-san nearly choked on his food. Seems that in those days, it is common for families to rear chickens, be it for meat, eggs or just being the dustbin (or as Oto-san put it, DBKL) as they eat almost everything.

Oka-san and my aunt also recalled the days they had to dig the soil for worms to feed the chickens. Cousin Hean then asked : if the chicken eats worms, and we eat the chicken, does it mean we are also eating the worms? Ototo-san then gave a very disgusted look. He's probably lost his appetite.

I asked Ototo-san : How did this conversation ever took place?

He didn't know.

It was a few minutes later only he remembered.

It all started with a prawn.

1 comment:

lilium said...

Interesting blog on all the exotic food ppl actually eat. I've tasted dogs meat before when I was very young due to my asmathic problem. I'll be going to Hanoi in Jul. Am not going to eat any if they do serve.