According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the Year of the Rat is being marked by some changes to the Vietnamese diet. Due in part to the bird flu epidemic, rat meat and other specialty meats are becoming increasing popular.

This might be new in Vietnam, but Lao villagers are definitely ahead of this trend. When we visited a village outside of Luang Prabang, Laos last month, we learned that the usual diet of fish, pork and poultry is often supplemented with meat from wild birds, snakes, rats and bats. And after visiting one of the local markets, we could understand why.

This is the Phosy Market, located in the large village of Phosy, on the outskirts of Luang Prabang. This market houses individual food vendors, as well as stalls selling clothing, kitchen utensils, and almost anything else one can imagine.

Here is one of the produce counters.

These cut greens have been pre-washed for customer convenience.

This vendor offers a variety of spices and condiments.

Fish sauce, anyone?

Here is one of the market’s butcher shops.

Pork blood is a local delicacy. The blood is collected, salted and allowed to clot. The blood cakes are eaten raw.

We saw no dairy stalls in this market, for a very good reason. Electricity, where it’s available, costs approximately US$0.25 per kilowatt hour in Laos. That is expensive even by North American standards, and it puts refrigeration out of the economic reach of the average Laotian villager.