A section of Hanoi’s busy Au Co Street in Nhat Tan Ward is wreathed in smoke and the smell of grilled meat coming from over 50 dog meat restaurants scattered along the street. The street is extremely crowded every afternoon, especially at weekends with dog-meat lovers arriving from different places to enjoy the specialties of the street.
But this was the scene about ten years ago. The smoky palm-roofed restaurants have now been replaced by modern buildings and villas and colourful shops, like many other busy streets in the capital.
Although dog-meat is still a popular dish in this city, all the restaurants here have closed. There have been lots of rumours around their closing which is still a question for many local gastronomers.
Illustrative photo. The closing of all dog-meat restaurants on Au Co Street is still a question for many local gastronomers.
One of the rumours is that the owner of the first dog-meat restaurant here, Nguyen Thi Xiu has claimed she had to close her restaurant due to fear of spiritual retribution for her killing dogs. She is now involved in real estate.
“My husband started selling dog meat on Yen Phu since the early 1990s,” Xiu recalled. “His stall soon attracted an increasing number of customers and we decided to open the Tran Muc Restaurant. We used to slaughter between 100-150 dogs to serve 600-1,000 customers a day. But after some years my husband wanted to close the restaurant when we were running very well. He said he didn’t want to kill any more dogs and tried to persuade me to stop but I didn’t agree. Many new restaurants were being opened following our success, why should we close? So I managed the restaurant alone.”
The sixty-old woman said that as a Buddhist follower she believed that killing animals, especially close pets like dogs or cats, could mean she would face retribution or ‘punishment’ in the next life but this was a good business so she was reluctant to stop.
“I was also afraid of the retribution sometimes and has come to many pagodas to pray for the souls of the dogs we had killed,” she said. “And I decided to close my restaurant in some years ago after my arm broke in an accident.”
Tran Muc Restaurant has closed
While several restaurants decided to close following various accidents falling on owners, which Xiu said that made them think that as results of their killing of so many dogs, some others closed to sell their land during the property boom in the area between 2008-2010.
And the final attack on the dog meat street came from the cholera epidemic in 2001 which local health authorities said originated from the dog meat sold there. According to Minh, owner of Anh Tu Beo which is the only restaurant still serving dog meat here, the cholera epidemic finally put an end to the dog-meat trade in this street.
“The number of customers fell sharply following the epidemic,” Minh said. “And the last restaurants had to close. Now there’s only our Anh Tu Beo here.”
Anh Tu Beo, the only dog-meat restaurant on Au Co Street, is seeing falling number of customers.
Minh said that dog-meat is easy to cook and restaurants are now open in many places in the city and so they’ve also lost many customers to them.
“Although we have few customers now, I’m still running it because I love the flavour so much,” she said.