Bizarre Food: Ricefield Rat (Laoag City, Ilocos Norte)

I always believe that one of the best ways to experience and learn one’s culture is through its food. Our diets divide cultures and subcultures, and eating bizarre foods is among those that mark social differences and media interests (for hyping and gaining viewer traffic). One must be open minded and hopefully find great joys of exploring other cultures by seeing what and how others eat.

abal abal

Abal-Abal (courtesy of my cousin Angelo Javier)

Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain (of travel channel) are among those who are not afraid to try every morsel they find around the world. Yes, that includes me. I’d like to try most of what others think as bizarre. I for one was raised by a farmer in Ilocos, and I am proud that we offer diverse strange food. It reminded me of the days I used to tail my father and his minions (farm helpers/ my friends) in their hunt. I was not squeamish by then and given a chance again, I would be glad to join them and experience the fun. I tried almost anything edible that crawls and flies, to name a few – Ararawan (mole crickets), simot-simot (winged ants), Buos (forest ants), Abal-abal/Arus-arus/Salagubang/Simmawa (June beatles), palakang bukid (ricefield frogs), banyas (bayawak, although it is now prohibited due to species endangerment), and lo and behold- RATS. I realized that we also hunt these critters not because of necessity, but mostly because it’s fun. As a disclaimer though, not all Ilocanos eat these foods.

golden beatles

Simmawa/ Golden Beatles (Courtesy of my sister -Yzang)

Rodents are among the most despicable pests, let alone unimaginable to consume, while a delicacy to some. I recently saw the video posted by Lester Babiera, originally published in Coconuts Manila. I recognized our porch and our dog -Labang. One of the hunters is my cousin (Emats/Manning) and the others are our neighbors. I’m from Bacsil North (not Baksil by the way) and I am so proud that most of us eat rodents (the good ones- forest and rice field rats). It is a good source of protein and it is sustainable. They can be found nesting in bamboo clusters. Dogs are trained to find them, while hunters would use sticks to divert the rats into the open so they could be trapped by the dog or shot using “escopeta” (hunter’s gun). It can be cooked adobo style or barbeque. Nothing is odd with the taste, as cliché if you will, it really taste like chicken.

Exotic food is called such because of cultural differences, people find it strange or unfamiliar because they are not used to eating it. We have different dialects, customs, nationality, social class and or travel history so it’s fitting to say that we can also have different food. It goes to say that, what is weird for someone maybe staple for others. It’s acquired taste too.

The decision to be adventurous with food is all up to us, but I do encourage you to try some that you can stomach.


Ricefield Frogs (Angelo Javier)




video owned by Coconut Manila.


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