In the continuing interests of trying to give a full, 'tell it like it is' probe on Vietnamese cuisine, on Independence Day, the dog meal came to pass. Let it be known, here and now, that it was no testosterone-charged, boys getting blind, Dutch courage, medieval gnashing flesh from bones type feast. The atmosphere was sombre last supper. In my mind, a soft voice was barking, "You've got a little puppy at home. He will know! Your relationship will never be the same."
Jesus wasn't around to deliver us from this evil, so the other two disciples, JC (true name!), Vietnamesegod (also a mortal!) and I decided to push on for the cause of 'research'. Beer was required and was duly delivered with two huge crunchy rice crackers and a plateful of split cucumber logs to be dipped in chili salt.
The main fare, some of which is grilled roadside, is plonked down on the practical newspaper tablecloth soon after. This traditional seven dish dog spread has been described really bloody well by Vietnamesegod, our more than willing chaperone:
"Cooked Dog meat is just like other dish in Vietnam, served with different herbs and ingredients according to a very special recipe. What we ordered was Grilled dog with galangal and lemongrass, Boiled Dog in a bamboo stock, Stewed Dog with finely chopped lemongrass, Steamed Dog black pudding with peanuts, apricot leaves and sweet basil, Stir fried Dog meat with finely chopped lemongrass, ginger and chilli, Steamed Dog meat over Dog stock, but our favourite was Boiled Dog leg in Dog bone stock with young bamboo. All of these dishes have to be eaten with "mắm tôm"(fermented shrimp sauce), chilli, chopped lemongrass, fresh apricot leaves and squeezed lemon."
It sounds exotic, no doubt offensive to some, but the epicurean experience is a bit lost on me. The head space is too weird and the dog meat (thit cho) itself is only appealing in part: much of it is fatty or chewy or....something! The promise of a surge in virility, while considerable, is just not enough. I do need to dispel this one misconception about the dogmeat dinner. In general, it seems that it is not an unsavoury blokes-only get pissed and horny atrocity. In fact, on our visit, it was Mum, Dad and the kids sitting on the rattan mats splashing out, having a special meal on Independence Day. Not quite like Maccas but not far off!
Along the dyke road, out towards the night flower market, there are several hound houses, all serving it up. I do hope you get the waitress wearing the pyjamas with 'Pe Pe dog' emblazoned on the front to bring your bill.
Seven dog dishes, five Hanoi beers, for three disciples - 180,000 VND (USD$11.35, AUD$14.75)
Anh Tu Xin Dogmeat Restaurant,
248 Au Co