If you drive the long stretch of Cambodia’s Highway 5 through Battambang, you’ll pass grazing cattle, small fill-up stations selling gasoline-filled soda bottles, and roadside vendors hawking rows of roasted field rat. Across the countryside, the rodents make cheap, savory snacks.
City-dwellers might balk at the idea of eating rodents, but these rats are far healthier than their urban counterparts. No matter the season, Cambodian plantations provide the free-range critters with a steady supply of food: Rainy months mean a diet of rice, while dry weather offers crops such as potato or sugarcane.
Hunters take advantage of the rats’ reliable presence and sell their bounty to local roadside vendors or export it to Vietnam. In Cambodia, sellers cook the rat over charcoal and serve it accompanied by dipping sauces made from lime juice and black pepper or fish sauce and chilies. The skin is salty and rich, similar to roast chicken, while the meat itself has the savoriness of pork. Most Cambodians pair it with a local lager, such as Angkor.
And though it is extremely long and prominent, no, you do not eat the tail.
Need to Know
In addition to Battambang, barbecued field rat is popular in the Cambodian provinces of Prey Veng, Kandal, and Takeo.