Thai Grilled Rats, nu phook, are hunted in the rice fields and grilled for sale as a rural delicacy. They’re a regular source of both protein and income during the last two months of the year for villagers across Thailand.
The greater bandicoot rat (bandicota indica) is a rodent of the muridae species found in China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam that grows to 27–29 cm, plus an equally long tail.
The nu phook has a dark gray-brown upper parts with a profusion of long, black hairs. Sides are gray with a few long, black hairs. Short, light gray fur occurs on the ventral surfaces. It has a dark, naked, scaly tail, and dark feet with light-colored claws. The young are much lighter in color. Females have 8 – 10 litters and 8–14 per litter, born blind and naked. Young reach sexual maturity around 50 to 60 days after birth. The lifespan of adults is around a year.
Large, aggressive nu phook erect their guard hairs on their backs and emit grunts when disturbed. If caged with other bandicoots, it is likely to fight to death within a few hours. Usually, they occupy the outskirts of human dwellings such as compounds and gardens and are commonly found near garbage bins. Their burrowing habits cause great damage to grounds and flooring, as they can also tunnel through brick and masonry. Their characteristic large burrows give away their presence. They are not fastidious eaters, feeding on household refuse, grain, and vegetables, and are very serious pests in poultry farms. They are also a carrier for many diseases.
The villagers hunt the nu phook and their nocturnal hunt-and-barbeque activities generate substantial income since the rats sell for around 300 baht per kilogramme – more than beef and pork.
Sornsak Ngernkhao, 50, is a villager in tambon Thung Sa Liam who normally makes bird cages for a living. During the cool evenings of November and December, he his friends venture out on rat hunts. The group sets a bonfire in a rice field and hunts for the rats from 8pm until 3am, spending two nights in the fields before coming home with the main ingredient for the dish.
Mr Sornsak’s mother sells the grilled, ready-to-eat rats at the fresh market packed in plastic bags and displayed for sale. “Grilled rat is so profitable that I take a break from my regular job and, in only two months, I can earn 50,000 baht, because the price rises to 500 baht a kilo towards the end of the year,” said Mr Sornsak.
If you’re looking for a little extra income…