My friend Krishna travelled to Vietnam last week.
By his wont, he took the time to find and wander about the most ethnic areas of the city, looking to eat and drink in establishments frequented by the most ethnic among the locals and not all the most terrible experiences have kept him from more adventure.
Wherever you travel in the non- or partially English speaking world like Vietnam or India, you encounter weirdly spelled words.The menu at a Laotian restaurant in downtown Saigon was unsurprisingly in the local script.Krishna pointed to one item that sported a star beside it–clearly a special.
He asked the waiter what it meant.
“Chuot!” the waiter snapped.
“I beg your pardon man,” Krishna said, and he squared his shoulders.
“Chuot!” the waiter snapped again, “Chuot is Rates. Fried Rates.”
And then the waiter described a long stem with his squiggly fingers.
Krishna: “Rates…? Ohhhh now I get it – Fried Roots! Thank you! Hahaha!”
Having ordered his vegetarian meal, he settled to a long pull of Bia Saigon Lager and waited for the fried tapioca or whatever yam was about to be served fried.
As it turned out, “Chuot” in Vietnamese is neither curse word nor root. Or rate.
It was rat.
The waiter brought Krishna a rat. Extra crispy. With eyes and ears.
To be fair, it did have a long-stemmed squiggly tail resembling a root.