Cambodians feast on and make a profit off of a seasonal delicacy -- rats.
CHREY THOM VILLAGE, KANDAL PROVINCE, CAMBODIA (SEPTEMBER 15, 2012) (REUTERS) -Cambodians living near the border with Vietnam have something to look forward to when the monsoon rains hit -- rats.
It's a tasty and cheap, local delicacy and a lucrative business for rat catchers. The rats sell for about 2USD a kilo in Cambodia, but across the border they sell for more than double the price, at about 5USD.
According to villagers, tonnes of rats are caught in Cambodia in the fields of Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom provinces. Much of the catch is exported to Vietnam to feed a growing demand there.
"There are a lot of rats and I imported about 4 tonnes per day earlier in the rice harvest season. Today, I do not get as many as usual because of the flooding and there are also a lot of fish too," said Yom Tiek, a Vietnamese buyer who has been in the rat business for 17 years.
The rats are are grilled, roasted or made into pate for human consumption. Otherwise they are fed to crocodiles or fish in Vietnam.
"The dead rats are sold in local market here and the live ones are exported to Vietnam. In Vietnam, people eat them and use some of them or their skins to feed the fish," added Yom Tiek.
A taste for rat dishes is also growing in Cambodia. Villagers there say the best season for the rodent is the monsoon period after the rice harvest.
"It is very good. It is not as bad as beef so people in this village eat them and I often buy and cook it for my children too," said 45-year-old villager Keo Noeun who lives in the Koh Thom district.
"Rat meat is cheaper than other meat and it is more natural, no viruses, because rats eat only plants and plant roots. It is even more delicious because of the flood season and it is easier to catch as well," added another villagers Sim Nak, 45.
Connoisseurs claim wild rats feast on grass in the lush fields during the monsoon, which produces a healthy and tasty meat.
Villagers in the Koh Thom district say they avoid eating rats in the dry season fearing lean or sickly rats will pass on diseases they may carry to those who eat them.