Bat Soup

Posted March 1 ’10

Sometimes the writer simply has to go on vacation.  The pressures of constant fieldwork, the huge abundance of creative energy,  the day to day maintenance of basic sanity, the constant voices in one’s head…  When it all becomes overwhelming, the only thing to do is to get on an airplane and fly to Palau.  And that is exactly what I was forced to do on February 14, Valentine’s Day.

Typical Beach in PalauPalau is in Micronesia, a small country made up of thousands of islands with a population of just 21,000, and it is one of my new favorite places on earth.  It is extraordinarily beautiful, the people are lovely and the scuba diving is the best I’ve ever seen.  Water temperature is about 82 degrees and the visibility is outstanding.

I saw lots of car-sized manta rays, hundreds of sharks, turtles, beautiful fish and coral.  I went diving in Jellyfish lake and contracted the worst ear infection in the history of mankind. (I am currently on my second course of antibiotics.  Recovery time–unknown).  But the highlight of my trip was my dinner at a restaurant called Little Bejing where I had the privilege of eating Fruit Bat Soup, a local delicacy.  We had to call ahead so they could go out and capture the little bat and when we arrived promptly at 7:30, it was waiting for us.

After touching our bat, getting to know our bat, we were shown to a private room and supplied with plenty of Red Rooster beer, the local favorite.  While waiting for our soup, they served us coconut crab, also caught that day especially for us.  The crab was delicious; I enjoyed eating the claws and legs dipped in a delightful ginger vinegarette.  I did not particularly enjoy the stomach content that came with the crab.  It is apparently considered a delicacy but I found it oily and there was a vague peanut butter smell that was off-putting. But I ate it.  And then, after pounding a couple more beers, our main course arrived.

Fruit Bat Soup

I was surprised to see that our bat came complete with all its hair or fur or whatever that is and it’s little eyes and teeth.

Fruit Bat sticking out its tongue

The waitress graciously served us some broth then removed the bat from the soup and disappeared into the kitchen.  The soup was oily with a hint of pork but not overly disgusting and I got a great sense of accomplishment from swallowing three or four spoonfuls.  There, done.  Not so bad.  I drank another beer and felt that it had been a successful evening, ready to go back to the hotel, when the waitress returned with the grand finale.

Gourmet tidbits of Fruit Bat

The kind chef had dissected the bat so that we could enjoy the meat of the little bat wings and legs.  As you can see, he left the head intact. Apparently some people enjoy Fruit Bat brain.  This writer stuck with ONE BITE of bat thigh.  Gamey.  Beyond Gamey.

I woke up the next day feeling great.  The Bat Soup agreed with me and I would recommend it to anyone who visits Palau–one time.  Once is enough.