Pig Blood is Yummy
Being a vegetarian has been a challenge since I moved to Vietnam. While a Buddhist influence has established a fair understanding of not eating meat, the majority of Vietnamese fail to understand my choice. Common questions about my veggie diet include:
"Are you on a diet?"
"What religion are you?"
"But you still eat pork, right?"
Time and time again I have had to explain to friends, students, waitresses and chefs that I still consider Pig Meat to be on my list of No-no's. The idea seems baffling to them. Pork to Vietnamese is like Bread to Americans. It's a natural compliment to any meal, bland enough that it won't heavily influence a dish but tasty enough that it will increase enjoyment.
A prime example of this phenomenon occured a few nights ago. My housemates and I went out to a new, trendy restaurant in the tourist area called "Everything is Bun." Bun Noodles are a Vietnamese staple and come in a variety of dishes, all of which are served by our restaurant choice. After surveying the menu, vegetarian Linda and I realized we had 2 choices: shrimp wrapped in rice paper or Crab Noodle Soup. Linda went for the former, I for the latter.
First comes the rice paper dish, beautifully arranged with a slither of pork delicately poised between each shrimp. Not wanting to cause a scene, Linda picked out her meat and gave it to carnivore Matt. When my dish arrived, however, it became a little more difficult. Floating in my noodle and crab soup were three red, gelatinous looking lumps which our waiter promptly identified as congealed pig blood.
"It's delicious," he said.
"An chay (I'm vegetarian)" immediately came out of my mouth.
"Religion?" he asks.
I confirmed that this was true just to ease the understanding of my case.
The waiter proceeded to convince me how delicious the flavor of the blood was. After minutes of refusing to eat it, he took my bowl away only to return with the same soup minus the congealed blood minutes later. Arguments and pleas and cries of vegetarianism were exchanged back and forth until I really had no option except to go ahead and chow down my noodles flavored with pig bones and blood. I could really only congratulate myself for being so easy-going for I know many people who would gag at the idea of succumbing to eating pig-blood-noodles.
In the end, I can not agree with the waiters promise that pig blood is yummy. I spent much of the next day in the bathroom getting rid of what my body most certainly didn't agree with. And so ended yet another debacle with my vegetarianism.