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Monday, May 21, 2012

Exotic Meats: Alligator, Kangaroo, and Ostrich, Oh My!

My family has a tradition where the birthday person gets to choose any restaurant for their birthday dinner. I'm a pretty adventurous eater (hence, my blog name) and I'm willing to try anything at least once - sometimes twice just to make sure. So for my birthday this year, I wanted to live life on the edge and go for something truly exotic. Alligator, kangaroo, and ostrich!

Phong Dinh Restaurant
2643 San Gabriel Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770

Phong Dinh is a Vietnamese restaurant famous for their large baked whole catfish. You take chunks of the fish and wrap your own spring rolls at the table. I've had this dish at another restaurant in Rosemead before, but decided to forgo the catfish here in favor of the extreme!

Alligator with Lemongrass and Chili
The alligator was my favorite dish of the night. The lemongrass sauce was slightly sweet and garlicky with little bits of Thai basil. The alligator itself tasted a little like chicken, but with... a slight hint of tap water? I know that doesn't sound appetizing, but I'm not sure how to describe the "water" flavor. I really liked the alligator mixed with the sauce though. My family chose this as their favorite dish too.
Alligator with Lemongrass and Chili Close-up
Kangaroo Luc Lac
If you've ever had "French Style Filet Mignon" at a Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant, this is basically the same thing, but with kangaroo instead of beef.
Kangaroo Luc Lac Close-up
The kangaroo was very lean and didn't have any of its own flavor, which was really surprising. I was expecting it to have some sort of gamey-ness to it, but I guess kangaroo isn't gamey. It just took on the flavor of the onions, green onions, and sauce it was cooked in.
Kangaroo Luc Lac Cross-section
The texture of the meat is difficult to describe. It was sort of dry because it lacked fat, but it wasn't tough. As you can see, the cubes were still pink on the inside. The texture was really unlike any other meat I've ever had. No cut of beef comes close to it.

Fillet Ostrich Marinated in House Made Sauce
This dish comes out partially cooked (according to our waitress) and we finish it on the grill at our table.
Grilling the Ostrich Fillets
You simply butter the grill and then place the meat on top. You want to cook the fillets for only about 30 seconds (or even less) per side. They're cut so thin that they cook in no time! A few of the pieces that remained on the grill longer ended up being tough so I would err on the side of being underdone. The texture of the meat was very similar to the kangaroo. It was very lean, but for some reason, there was a slight bitterness to it. We're not sure if the bitterness came from the grill or the marinade or the meat itself, but it was there. Out of all the dishes we had, we liked this one the least. To be fair, our inexperience with cooking ostrich may be to blame. I originally wanted to try the "Charbroiled Ground Ostrich in Rolled 'Lot' Leaves (Da Dieu Nuong La Lot)" but apparently, the fillets were the only ostrich dish they had that day. Next time I get a chance to eat ostrich, I'll be sure to choose something that a professional chef cooks in its entirety so I don't contribute my inexperience and human error to the dish.

To say the least, this meal was different! I was actually a little scared that the restaurant might try to pass off beef or chicken as the exotic meats, but judging from the different textures of the meats, the meats were most certainly not something I've had before. This may be one of the most eccentric birthday dinners - or any meal really - that I'll have in my life. How often can you say you got to eat alligator, kangaroo, or ostrich? And how many people can say they had them all in one meal? I, for one, can say I have! And that made me happy on my birthday! :]


Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Happy Birthday Christina! How lucky to be able to try out different kinds of meat! I've tried ostrich before at a Chinese restaurant near Berkeley. But that's about it. I still haven't tried kangaroo or alligator meat. Looks like a regular beef and I think I won't have any issue eating it...for the sake of experience! :-)

Chrissy said...

Thanks, Nami! :) You should definitely give kangaroo and alligator a try if you get the chance. It'll be a unique experience for sure! And you get to wow all your friends! ;P

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