Thursday, March 12, 2009

Monkey Business

By Chip Tsao | published Mar 12, 2009

Someone has been killing monkeys at Monkey Hill at the Shek Lei Pui reservoir. This may seem an odd way to pay tribute to Charles Darwin for his 200th birthday, but the huge Chinese market for monkey meat and brains is said to be the motivation behind the massacre.

Allegedly, each adult monkey in Hong Kong can sell for $1,000, and a baby monkey for $800. A Chinese fine dining connoisseur can buy monkeys in the market to resell to specialized restaurants, who prepare the brains as a delicacy. The cook imprisons the monkey and force-feeds it rice wine (in some places, French red wines are substituted to make the brain tastier and mark up the price). The head is shaved, the skull is opened, and the brains are dug out and served as soon as possible, preferably with seasonings such as soy sauce, wasabi, or chili peppers.

The taste is said to be not terribly impressive—a bit like tofu. And this may be urban legend, but some say that in the drive for ultimate freshness the monkey is still alive when the brains are harvested, and it might even regain consciousness depending on the cook’s generosity with the amount of alcohol used (being economical is understandable these days, especially if you are using the more expensive French wines). Chinese gourmets can eat with a lot of noise, but the monkey’s mouth is firmly sealed shut to prevent even the faintest cry of dissent. This is, of course, a practice all too familiar to the Chinese.

In the interests of being environmentally friendly, the rest of the monkey can be made into other dishes. The meat is traditionally fried and the paws are used in a popular type of medicinal soup.

An adult monkey weighing 1.5kg has a brain that weighs 150 grams—perhaps only slightly heavier than both George W. Bush and Tung Chee-hwa’s added together. So it is rather puzzling that baby monkeys have become victims. A baby monkey is not enough for a table of four, which would surely result in a fight of kung-fu movie proportions between hungry customers.

Cruel? Some would say that’s just Western prejudice. Personally, I wish the poachers on Monkey Hill good luck. I hope they can get their monkeys processed without delay, and avoid lingering with, or even fornicating with the creatures, which thanks to the barbarous actions of similar tribal folk, is how many scientists believe HIV first spread to humans.

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