Free-range and organic. Those are two of the redeeming qualities that Cambodian farmer Chhoeun Chhim, 37, likes to tout when promoting his newest export from his rice fields – wild rats.
BBC reporter, Kevin Doyle, interviewed Chhim about this new culinary trend, although it is not clear whether Doyle tried this new South East Asian delicacy himself.
“Wild rats are very different. They eat different foods,” Mr. Chhim tells Mr. Doyle with the intensity of a gourmand. Elaborating on the rats’ free-range diet, he ticks off their nightly menu of rice stalks, the vegetable crops of unlucky local farmers, and the roots of wild plants. Thanks to this free range natural diet, Rattus argentiventer is increasingly being considered a healthy delicacy across Asia.
Conversely, Mr. Chhim considers urban rats unfit for cooking pot and would never consider eating one himself. But wild rice paddy rats, well that is another matter. They taste like pork, he says.
Rat-catching season peaks at the tail end of the rice harvest in June and July, when rats suddenly find themselves bereft of their main supply of food – rice. This lack of food combined with intense seasonal rains drives the rodents to higher ground and right into the traps set by farmers like Mr. Chhim. On a lucky night, he can catch 25kg of wild rats.
At the peak of rat-catching season, fellow rat trader, Chin Chon, describes how he will typically export hundreds of rats each morning to Vietnam. Initially, rat meat sold for less than .20 cents per kg, but now the going price is $2.50 per kg and the price just keeps going up.
It is a nice bonus economically after the rice harvest. However, does he save a few for himself? No… he says, he prefers fish. Chhim agreed, “we sell the rats for money and buy fish instead.”
On a sustainability note, dining on free range rice paddy rats has a low carbon footprint, requires no extra land nor additional resource input, and prevents damage to rice, so before you scoff at the idea of a sticky rice bowl with fried rat, consider all these benefits. Of course, if you are vegan or vegetarian, just stick to the rice.
Free-Range Rats: A Growing Market? – Care2.com
rats – Google News