Cambodians turn to spicy fried rat meat

PHNOM PENH: Rat meat has become a popular alternative for chicken in Cambodian markets after the bird flu outbreak sweeping across Asia dampened appetites for poultry, a report said yesterday. 

“Rat meat doesn't look good, but it has a good market,” Chhun Sarom, 38, a rat-meat seller in northwestern Battambang province told the Rasmei Kampuchea

“People like to buy it – it's cheap and spicy fried rat meat is very tasty,” he told the newspaper. 

He added that he was selling up to 60kg of rat meat daily. 

Sarom said that after learning two weeks ago that people had stopped eating chicken due to the deadly bird flu virus, he set up his new business by ordering rat meat from five different districts in Battambang province. 

He buys the creatures from local villagers for 1,200 to 1,400 riels (RM1.10 to RM1.30) per kilo and sells them at prices up to 1,800 riels (RM1.65) per kilo – a healthy profit. 

Mao Say, a 50-year-old rat catcher, told the paper that she and her four children could earn about 10,000 riels (RM9.20) a day by catching the animals. 

And another woman, Chum Thi, said she was doing a roaring trade selling fried rat meat. 

Dining out on rats is considered quite normal in Cambodia, partly due to the fact that many resorted to such food during the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime when up to two million people perished from starvation and genocide. 

“This is not bizarre,” said Animal Health and Production Department deputy director Sen Sovann. 

“Eating rice-field rats which are in good health is not hazardous to health,” he said. 

Cambodia has reported three outbreaks of bird flu, the first at a major chicken farm west of here and later cases at a zoo in the south and a family farm just north of the capital. – AFP  

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