20 October, 2017

Occasional Stories: Eating Dog Meat!

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

I had a terrible time during the first week of my stay in Hanoi. The year and month were 1987 and February. This was my first visit to Hanoi or Vietnam and had some official business to perform. My brief was to meet with the Ministry of Education and select and agree upon where our scholarship program could be implemented. This could have simply been done through sitting in a ministry room and going through the relevant papers, but my host thought otherwise.

I was taken to almost every higher education institution called ‘universities’ and even had to speak to some potential recipients of scholarships, of course through an interpreter. There were around 34 institutions in the Hanoi province if I remember correct. Therefore, my days were hectic and gruelling. Hanoi is a nice old city, and Hanoi meaning ‘the city of lakes.’

I was staying at Danchu Hotel and danchu means democracy, I was meant to believe. But everything was quite nicely regimented of course for my own sake. The days of February were quite cool or rather cold and in the hotel, there was no proper heating. It is a hotel obviously built during the French colonial times, but neglected thereafter particularly during the war times and only now there were new improvements after the economic reform programs two three years back. 

I had to wake up early morning and get ready by 8.00 after having breakfast. Then I was taken out. Every morning I was given an itinerary for the day and I didn’t have any say on the matter. If we were in the city area, I was brought back to the hotel sharp at 12.00. Then I was asked to take lunch and have a rest and get ready sharp at 1 O’clock. When we go out in the afternoon, sometimes it was late in the evening when we came back. Dinner was taken out. 

I was not sure whether this strict regimentation was followed to impress upon me or that is the way the government bureaucrats operated under still an ‘orthodox’ communist regime. When I arrived in Hanoi, the first thing they did was to take my passport on the pretext of some official reporting, but that was never returned to me until my day of departure. I was little annoyed about the matter but for the sake of politeness or tact decided not to make an issue of it.

My main host was Dong Ho and he was the Second Secretary to the Ministry of Education. Then there were two interpreters, a young man and a young woman, and they both were extremely nice in their own ways but awfully obedient to Mr. Ho. I cannot remember their names off hand. Dong became exceptionally friendly with me eventually and one reason for this change perhaps was my patience and the other being my nationality.

I understand that the Ministry has had a bitter experience previously dealing with NUFFIC, an organization based in the Netherlands, a person like me visiting but indulging in some espionage work or propaganda against Vietnam using the information he gathered during his visit. That is what they told me. This could be one reason why they were quite careful about my visit as well.

One unusual day, I was brought back to the hotel quite early, perhaps around five O’clock in the evening. The two interpreters were rather excited. Dong asked me whether I eat some meat and I couldn’t gather what it was but nevertheless said “yes, yes.” I remember that the woman interpreter had an amusing smile in her face, but I couldn’t understand what it was.

I could have a decent rest that day and a second shower. I only had to get ready by 7 O’clock. What a luxury, I thought.

I was in a fancy shirt and a mild pullover. I knew that we were going out for dinner. Dong wore a tunic. The young woman interpreter was in a colourful gown and a shawl and the young man, the other interpreter finally was not there. I think we travelled for about twenty minutes from my hotel. My notes say it was Tay Ho area or district in Hanoi.

It was a square like place and in the middle, there was a small park with colourful lanterns and some people were selling flowers, sweetmeats, pots, decorations, paintings and curious. The place reminded me of what Thomas More described as a market place in his ‘socialist’ Utopia. This was just after or the last days of their national Lunar New Year. Most colourful were the mandarin plants in pots with full of fruit. They were excelled in hybrid plants. On all four sides, there were small restaurants built with timber and wood. I was taken to one of them and at the entrance there were three other officers from the Ministry who joined us. It appeared that they were subordinates of Dong from their behaviour until all loosened up after some drinks.

The restaurant was a small dark place of two stories completely built in timber. ‘Duck, dock, dock,’ we climbed the narrow stairs. There was a long wooden table waiting for us with two benches on both sides. There was no head table. I was asked to sit in the middle of one side and Dong was in the middle of the other side. On my right-hand side, was this nice little girl, interpreting whatever I had to say or what the others would say. Only Dong could speak little English but he was better in French.

We were first served with rice wine and inside one bottle was a cobra. The waiter first came to me and showed both bottles for me to indicate my preference. I of course selected the cobra wine. There were pleasing smiles around the table and I think now I became one of them. Then came different salads and Nam or spring rolls and most intriguing was a salad of some bird eggs. Even the interpreter was not able to explain clearly what the bird was. But as far as I could understand it was a kind of a hawk or eagle.

I was relieved that those were not owl eggs. Otherwise, because of my ‘love for owls’ I would not have touched them. 

Then came the meat. Salads were served again and again with bread. Everything was served on the table and we had to use our chop sticks to serve them to our own plate. Meat was served on Fondue style. There were two burning pots of oil and we had to put meat into the boiling oil, stir them a bit, and then take them and eat with salad and bread or alone. When I took my first piece of meat, somebody asked me how it was? My answer of course was,

“Delicious, Delicious.”

It was in fact delicious compared to many meats that we eat and it was extremely tender.

We had many conversations relevant and irrelevant, and all the officers were interested in knowing how I became an ‘international functionary’ in Geneva, just being like one of them from a place like Sri Lanka. Perhaps they were exaggerating my position and the organization that I worked for without much exposure to the outside world at that time. My answer to the question however was, “education.” Then they were interested in knowing my educational background.

They were also interested in knowing how Geneva looked like compared to Hanoi. I said there is a big lake compared to many small lakes in Hanoi. None of them had travelled outside Vietnam that time and Dong told me that their First Secretary had been to Paris the previous year. What I gathered was their eagerness to travel outside and see the world. That was quite natural and human.    

Another question that I was asked was about the ministry vehicle that we were using. I said it was ‘quite hardy,’ ‘quite strong.’ I was told that it was the second-best car in the Ministry, after the Minister’s vehicle, and it was to me a ‘ramshackle.’ During our travel to various places, we had several flat tyres and few technical breakdowns. But the driver was very quick in fixing them. Hanoi of that time was a city of bicycles. At a junction, they come from all sides in hundreds, but disperse quite peacefully without accidents. 

This was in early 1987. Since then Vietnam has progressed in many leaps and bounds still preserving some of their socialist principles. The scholarship program that the World University Service (WUS) was offering was quite inexpensive. One recipient was getting only $ 15 per month. Therefore, we could offer a lot. That amount was nearly a professor’s salary at that time. I was told that the highest salary that a university professor would get at that time was equivalent to $ 20 and some juniors were getting around $ 10.

I only came to know what meat I was eating only when I was coming out of the restaurant. We were about to get into the car. I looked back at the restaurant and there was this name board saying, “Dog Meat Restaurant” in English. 

Could I have eaten if I knew if it was ‘dog meat’? The answer still is ‘yes’ perhaps with a hesitation. There are several countries that eat dog meat: the Philippines, Korea, certain parts of China, Hon Kong and even Mexico. I also came to know, coming back to Geneva, that people in Appenzell, a canton in Switzerland also eat dog meat.

But I have not seen a ‘Dog Meat Restaurant’ in Switzerland!      

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Latest comments

  • 6
    4

    Not to worry. Many of us were eating dog’s meat in Colombo. There was a Chinese Restaurant near Thunmulla at the beginning of Havelock Road. I think it was called Modern Chinese Cafe. It was closed down because the CMC found that it was cooking dogs meat, so the story went. So, many of us who ate there frequently would have eaten dogs meat.
    On Vietnam, it is a fact that progress has been startling. We have had a downward slide while they have progressed. This despite the huge headstart. Vietnam also had a civil war far more destructive than ours. It would be good to do a comparison.

    • 5
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      Dog meat culture should better be introduced to Dayan Jayathilaka, since he has been sitting with them for the last 2.5 years. DJ has the best source of dogs if any dog butchers would come forward. That can be a good business to unemployed DJ.
      From my past living in various student hostels, I also got to know there are some people that eat even CHIMPANSI meat. In Australia, they taste crocodiles meat too.
      Some south asian countries eat even cats meat or any kind of meats including human meat- I know lankens that eat iguana or even monkey in some villages. But they brand them as SINHALA BUDDHISTs. .
      If last election was won by Rajaakshes, no doubt, srilankens would also offer HUMAN MEAT in their super markets under the lead of Mahinda Rajapakshe WITH the backing of LANKEN SO CALLED ILLITERATE BUDDHIST CLERGY.
      The purpose is very clear, toppling the current govt for his selfish gains. Next post as is the case with ASP liyanage who just resigned his post, DJ would be more than happy if he would be posted at least to LOW DEMOCRATIC Quatar state represending srilankens.

      But the incumbent president OR PM would never want to represent the country by a rabblerouser number 1.

  • 5
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    Don’t worry mate………UNP Minister Gyan Gunathilaka ( ??) is starting Sheep Farming in Srilanka to feed Lamb Chops to Yahapalana suckers…..

    • 5
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      Now that Rajapakses have made us deep in debt to the Chinese, we will all be eating dogs meat along with the Chinese.

  • 7
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    Shameful sweeping generalization of a tale to scare-monger Lankans from associating too close with Indo-Chinese. A very small % of Indo-Chinese eat dog. More Europeans for example, use dogs in other very perverse ways. Nevertheless, the association of Buddhist Nations will yet prevail!

  • 5
    4

    people who eat mans best friend can’t be human.They must be another species or a sub species.

    When my first dog died of old age and diabetes i was heartbroken and coudn’t get over it for years.I brought him up from a puppy and it was like losing a child.

    Anyway coming back to the article,it was as usual very interesting.Laksiri has a wealth of experience in the good ol days and imparts it to us in his traditionally delightful style.Thank you laksiri.

  • 5
    4

    In western countries they slaughter almost everything few exceptions such as dogs. You get restaurants in the west throwing live lobsters, crabs, mussels, fish and other aquatic creatures into boiling water right in-front of their posh guests. Have you seen the despicable condition of diary farms, animals farms and slaughter houses in the west? How they have been pumped with so much hormones, steroids, even genetically modified to a state where they are literally walking blobs of meet barely able to walk. Even when it come to our everyday ice-cream, have you seen how they forcefully impregnate cows and keep them in a constant state of pregnancy to maximize milk production? If anyone is claiming eating dog meat is unethical then that is hypocrisy at a colossal level. If people really care about generic animal well-being then they will have to avoid eating meat altogether. How many of our posh Colombo-07 dog lovers eat boatloads of beef, pork, mutton, lamb, fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, etc, etc ,etc…………? But when it come to dogs “Ayyiooo sin men, look how cute those bauwuas are…..ane darling… awwww….”!

  • 6
    3

    Dr. Laksri Fernando,
    Beautifully written. You are a class of your own.
    My worry is how Dr.DJ is going to respond. I can only speculate.

    Is he going to write about his dining experience with Fidel Castro in the latter’s favourite restaurant in Cuba where Cubans are not allowed.
    How he tasted Castro’s favourite Fernandeze’s vegitable soup,
    Specific food items Castro imports for him from the US, wine or baccardi, the drumsticks ( Indian Morringa ) cultivated in Cuba ( original seeds from DJ’s ancesteral land Kerala or Tamil Nadu ) and Cuban black beans and rice ( or race rice ) and finish with a cigar

    Then the dreams he had. One day to become a SriLankan diplomat for Cuba or US under US citizen GoRa.

    • 2
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      Non PhD;

      DJ would not even read it, he is obsessed with his rabblerousing stuff.

      Dr Fernando is a humble person to add his thoughts this way, I am telling going back to my past. I left home for EUrope in late 80ties, since local universities remained close for the stundents and we did not have an yother choice than leaving for any other places where we could continue our degrees. SO I arrived in Germany with some knowledge on the German. However, the life styles of a developed country such as GEmrany was no familiar with us. Whatever we saw in supermarkets we had to think twice before buying them. It was the langague than anything else.
      To that time, I also knew some srilankens living in Bonn – the city for diplomatic mission in west Germany to that time. Lanken missions were also located there.
      Some of them explained to us funny stories of their own experience,; you know the dogs and cats in Europe are fed with conserved meat or the like nutrients. Some of our sinhalayas had bought those meat in tins and had them for their eating.
      Following day, they explained alla bout they did – but in the end it revealed, those were DOG food conserved in cans. Can you imagine ? Thereason them to be deceived that way was due to lack of German langauage. Poor fellows fell as if they could not see one another for days having spiced can ned food available in SMs for dogs.

  • 2
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    That’s quite fascinating narratives of events. l like your writings. Please keep it up Prof. Fernando.

    Bon Apétit Hundefleisch in der Schweiz :)

    • 0
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      Bist Du aus der Schweiz ? Also ich glaube nicht dass die Leute dort Hundfleisch speisen wuerde.

  • 3
    1

    Sri Lankans would generally not knowingly eat dog meat as dogs are very closely associated as friends and pets in Sri Lanka. In Muslim countries many would avoid even touching a dog as it is seen as dirty (they use the swear words with “dog” to insult). Other intelligent pets are pigs, which are very clean animals except that humans who eat them often keep them in dirty pens, whereas as pets they can be indoors.

    I too have never encountered dog-meat restaurants in Switzerland although even last year I was in Zurich, Lucerne and Bern. What the writer was highlighting, apart from the massive development that unified Vietnam has achieved after a devastating war was the different culinary habits to Sri Lanka. Many south eastern Asian countries are great examples if only SL wants to learn.

    • 1
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      Lasantha,

      recalling 89 insurgency in the country, there, I heard even human meat packed and sent to own parents were reported. Meaning sons of some famlies were tortured either by JVPrs or Premadasa men and the packeted body parts were sent to their parents for their consumption. Can you imagine? I left the country to that time, not being able to continue my graduate studies inthe country, there I escaped my life. But how many of the youth were killed in that pareiod ? Even to this date, no investigations have been carried out ..
      Former Defnece secreatary left the country for USA after the insurgency, There had been rumours, he had been part of the killing gangs in the army to that period.
      Ghosts can express the truth, else no body else.

      • 0
        4

        Why can’t we find out how many were killed and who killed them? The Mahanayake’s don’t want the missing to be traced. Why this urge to protect the guilty? Would Buddha have wanted it that way? This is indecent. Both among Sinhalese and Tamils, there are mothers who want to know what happened to their children. They must have an answer. It is the agents of the government and politicians who controlled them who are responsible. They must be identified and tried. The unrequited feelings of despair will remain, until the truth is known.

  • 1
    1

    Enjoyed the levity of your article Sir. Too many people here seem to think they are so important , gifted and intellectual that they suck the fun right out of an essay like this. I have had Calf fries in Texas(Cattle Testicles deep batter fried), A barbequed baby goat head in Acapulco, Pickled pigs ear salad(so rubbery) in Macau, fried frogs legs in the US in a country restaurant(tasted like chicken), Escargots in Trocadero and loved it; and chicken feet in Hong Kong and pigeons too. But never Dog meat. But I know before 1988 Seoul Olympics, there was big move to hide their dog meat restaurants. I remember my friends in Colombo joking about the stray dog problem and saying “let Koreans invest in restaurants and we will not have a problem”. China has that dog meat slaying festival that got a lot of attention. But each his own culture no sir?

    In SL, I had Iththaa meat in Nuwara Eliya once, and Wild Boar many times(At MCA boozing joint with my friends where Ralahamy would serve it to us in secret).

    A very close friend of mine used to go to Hong Kong where his mother a great superb lady doctor from Sri Lanka worked. Aunty had taken him to the real local markets and he said he saw all the dogs, snakes and other exotic meats in the local market area. I could not go to that area on my single visit to Hong Kong. I have cousin who told me that it is true too. But in the US country Hilly Billy Rednecks and hunters shoot and kill and eat Squirrels and other “Varmints” too. I also had Alligator meat in Nawlins. Sir, Enjoyed your article. Thanks.

    • 3
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      “”But in the US country Hilly Billy Rednecks and hunters shoot and kill and eat Squirrels and other “Varmints” too.
      Like the red indians the animal is caught to order.
      At london west end red squirrel meat cost £2000 a plate and Goat urine and milk fermented pot of green tea cost £1100. The rarer the menu the pro the prices. The world of celebrity menus.
      The Legend left by the Singapore Chinese independence father is what most of the citizens display.
      While the legend left by the Dudley, SWRD/Ratwatte, Rajapakse Wallawwa Sri Lanka is what the citizens are- medieval middle east kussi ammas, a class drugs, casinos, harems and above all scams spreading into the world.
      bicycle kadde, pride that surname don’t those flowers turn to seed and be eaten by rats that spread the plague that has stuck the island?

  • 1
    1

    Yes growing up in the 1960s and 70s I remember being told that Modern Chinese Restaurant on Havelock Road was caught either using cat or dog meat or both and was shut down/sealed for awhile. With so many authentic Chinese run Chinese restaurants now who knows? After all premium beef is really expensive and local beef is really like leather. So we might never know what we ate. THANKS For a lovely essay.

    I love Vietnamese Pho /Soups. There is a vibrant American Vietnamese community in many states I have lived in; they are mostly people who came after 1975, some as Boat people and warmly accepted by Churches. They are mostly anti communist. Very successful third generation now too. I had so many wonderful students of both American born and also ones who were allowed to come here to study and stayed on. Amazing people. Vietnam is on my bucket list. You just made me yearn to go there sooner. I admire their resilience and hard working ethic.

    • 0
      0

      Vietnamese are well know growers of skunk in the west so they are enjoying the Libtard states where medicinal marijuana is permitted.
      Very many of them work for pakistani men (in the west) into the sale of computer hardware from china.
      Church accepts ass licking foreigners as the pews are empty.
      Their weakness is covered with the well formed law on human rights – racist!
      Winning an open competition spelling bee, geography bee is still a brahmins domain. Like basket ball is a black mans winning game or 100 meters.
      what are sri lanka’s good at?? insider trading, murder and scams.

  • 1
    1

    Some cultures dislike dogs. I think you are right to say some Muslim or Arab societies consider Dogs to be dirty. We love Dogs as pets; SL has that community dog concept too. Dogs give unconditional love unlike kids! But each his own Sir. You are right.

    By the way, I love Pork (the other white meat as they market it). I just marinated pork strips for 3 days in Soya and Hoisin sauce with a bit of oyster sauce. Stir fried it with Sesame oil and had it over some rice. I love to cook and I am the cook in the family; Will love to share recipes. I do not know you Sir, but really enjoy this light essay. Thanks. Also love Negombo style pork curry and kalu pork curry. I think a lot of the Vietnamese, Chinese and other Oriental cultures eat a lot of pork.

    • 1
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      mano
      “Dogs give unconditional love unlike kids!”

      that is why we should not put them on our plate instead of the kids first.

      enjoyed your reminiscence very much .

    • 0
      0

      “”I love Pork (the other white meat as they market it).”
      Only chicken and fish are classified as white meat. like pea nuts small and monkey nuts large- if you had taken the trouble to travel to madras before punjab then you would have heard groundnut oil the cheapest oil then given on for free to the poor- it is better than coconut because it has less cholesterol but rapeseed surpasses it all.
      take the trouble to read a bit of the sciences school teacher😂

      • 1
        1

        Pork, the Other White meat is how it is advertised by the Pork Industry in the USA in TV Spots. . Enjoyed your barbs oh thee knowledgeable intellect. Oh in Madras, I ate Cow brain curry. South India though more conservative had Beef for sale in Madras but not in Punjab. Thanks for your uplifting message bro.

        • 0
          0

          And your aunts neighbour who got hold of the drunken burgers and sinhalese then tinkered the household utilities stole electricity and water and the agency from Cargills also called it Hoover in lieu of Vacuum cleaner. Instead of tablet people call it iPad- don’t fall into fools paradise. When the chicken is fed with corn the skin turns yellow but the inside remains white and Pig meat is red meat.
          So I can’t let the commercial world of Goni Billa sucking fools take me for a sucker because i know them all- Jayawardena, to Dudley …..
          bicycle kadde machan it was all in good faith so that you know the scientific truth before you pass away calling the word `racist` white man only to hide your weakness away. You never met brahmins who are not racist what a shame- their wants are minimal in this world of greed and power.

        • 0
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          “”Oh in Madras, I ate Cow brain curry. South India though more conservative had Beef for sale in Madras but not in Punjab.””
          modaya you can buy cow meet anywhere in India and the two communist states are the main source. what you don’t want to know is that India has a high density of muslims. Punjab too has cow meat for sale. The lamas of Nepal get their cow meat and cheese from Calcutta. your problem is you travelled with your aunty SriMao chit .But i travelled with the greats (educated by most standards and i converse in many north indian languages) of india (as secretary of foreign students) and also met people of the slums. Madras is not my home or nadu. But the island as a whole belongs to us not your walawwa from Banda island delivered by the portugese just before the dutch VOC arrived.- i challenge you to take a test of DNA using the 4x4x4 inch made in OTTAWA.- then you know what an offshoot means and what is clean.

        • 0
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          I have eaten the meats of many animals and must say dog meat tastes pretty good… Maybe this would be a good way to curb our stray dog menace too… Grins….

  • 0
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  • 0
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    Dr. Fernando,

    China’s annual Yulin festival, in which thousands of dogs and cats are slaughtered and eaten, continued despite widespread international condemnation. An estimated 10,000 dogs and cats aree used for meat during the 10 days of the festival, which takes place at Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in the south-east of the country.

    I asked my freshmen seminar classes of young Americans to comment on it and despite my expectation that they will all be grossed out and angered, the class was more on the lines of “hey it is their culture, why should we tell them what to do”. That was really enlightening to read. I put out some controversial topics for them to comment and debate and I felt this might be the one that will arouse their passion. NO. So it is interesting. I know so many lads who shoot and kill squirrels, rabbits etc for sport. Also of course because of the very excessive population of White Tailed Deer, hunting season in the US brings hunters out in droves to shoot and kill for food(not for sport) under license, the deer population to keep them under control.

    Sir, do you also know in Nepal there is this Gadhimai festival. That involves the large scale sacrificial slaughter of animals including water buffaloes, pigs, goats, chickens, and pigeons – with the goal of pleasing Gadhimai, the goddess of power. I also ate beef brain curry in Madras! Interesting.

    • 0
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      “”I also ate beef brain curry in Madras! Interesting.””
      I think i have eaten sinhala brains even without touching it.
      So for once you admit that your class of americans are wiser than you when it comes to habits – they see their food as the only food especially when they travel.
      Notice that McDonald’s food taste the same anywhere in the world?
      so folk accustomed to it don’t preek preek while traveling.
      Anyway more than the food the Spanish will never stop Toros – bullfighting as it is ingrained in their culture.
      Bada! The greatest happiness is in the movement of the bowels!

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