Sean Thomas

What’s wrong with eating dog? 

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From my desk, as I write this, in a lofty room in a soaring new hotel in Phnom Penh, I can look down at the bustling streets and see the concrete, mosque-meets-spaceship dome of the Cambodian capital’s famous Central Market. Which also happens to be the place where, 20 years ago, I ate the single most disgusting thing in my life. A dried frog.

This thing, this whole dried frog, was so repulsive in taste and texture – like eating a tiny, desiccated alien made of poisonously rancid rubber – that I seldom choose to recall it. But today I am forced to, because of the intriguing news from South Korea that the Seoul government is going to ban the eating of dogs. This has got me thinking about the weird attitudes we all have to the consumption of unusual foodstuffs, from frogs to algae to golden retrievers. 

Dog restaurants used to spit roast the whole hound out front; now the pooch is prepped out the back

It has also made me determined to eat a dog, here in Phnom Penh, where I am told they are still quietly available. And I’m going to do this because one of the leitmotifs of my travelling life has been: try everything. Especially when it comes to food. And the more unusual the better – because daring culinary experimentation, like going to remote and difficult places, broadens the mind. To understand a culture, a people, a civilisation, it helps to know what they prohibit, and what they eagerly poach and serve with pak choi.

For instance, the reason I ended up eating dried frog is because I was on a journalistic tour of South-East Asia, from China to Indonesia and all stops in between, to sample the most exotic or disgusting (delete as you feel) edibles. And this odyssey of gastro-oddities was properly educational.

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