Rat meat is produced from any variety of farm bred or wild rats. There are over 64 different species that can be found all over the world and which can be used as a food source. It has been estimated that forty-two different cultures all over the world use rat meat or rodent meat in their diet. It has to be noted though that most cultures will prefer to use farm bred rodents or rats for cooking rather than wild rats.
History of Consumption of Rat Meat
The use of rat meat has been controversial in history. Many cultures actively encourage the consumption of rat meat while others actively prohibit it as an unclean source of meat. The variety of rat that is used for cooking will also vary. For example, bandicoot rats are popularly consumed in Southeast Asia while cane rats are consumed in Ghana. Ricefield rats are consumed in Valencia, Cambodia and Thailand while capybara, agora, and copyu are consumed in South America.
Culinary Uses of the Rat Meat
Rat meat is usually prepared just as chicken in the form of roasts, stews, soups and gravies. According to gourmets, the meat tastes better than chicken with a finer texture and taste.
Popular Rat Meat Recipes in Cuisines around the World
- In Thailand, the local tribes prepare a rat meat chili dish that is really popular. These are commonly caught during mid January when paddy cultivation reaches its peak. Wild rats can chew through the rice roots destroying the crop. These rats survive on a vegetarian diet of tender rice shoots and their meat acquires a distinctly nutty taste. As a result, the locals trap and catch rice field rats during this season and prepare them for roasting in a red chili, fish oil, cumin, coriander, basil and garlic paste. Another variety of preparation is to cover the meat with a lemongrass, fish sauce and onion paste. The meat is then wrapped in lemon leaves and steamed for 20 minutes.
- In India, the womenfolk of Mishmi community survive on rat meat, pork, wild birds and fish. They prepare several simple dishes using rat meat in place of chicken
- The Musahar community of Bihar, now commercially breeds rats for their own consumption. Rats are prepared in soups, stews and gravies for local consumption and hotels called the meat patal-bageri.
- In Tamil Nadu, freshly caught rat is roasted with chilli pastes and served as an appetizer with homemade liquor.
- In rural areas of China like Loungong, white rats are preferred for cooking. The rats are seared and skinned and served roasted in a ginger, garlic, chili and salt, and spice powder pastes.
- Bandicoot rats are popularly consumed in Cambodia and Vietnam. These large rats are usually skinned and served in soups.
- In Valencia, Italy, rata de marjal is a stew made with rice field rats, eel and local beans.
Rat meat consumption is taboo for Jews and Muslims. The Shipibo people of Peru and Sirionó people of Bolivia also have cultural taboos that prohibit the consumption of rat meat.