Rats are invading Russian restaurants-- but don't worry, they're not on the floor, they're just on the menu.
This fall, the meat from nutria, a large, orange-toothed rodent also known as coypu or river rats, is being served up in gourmet burgers. The furry beasts, found in southern Russia, are currently available at several restaurants in Moscow in dishes like burgers and sausages, The Guardian reports.
The recently opened Krasnodar Bistro, headed by chef and restaurateur Takhir Kholikberdiev, is serving up a sandwich the Guardian describes as "pale, juicy and fairly bland, somewhere between turkey and pork. It came in a soft bun, with plenty of relish and served on a chopping board."
“It’s a really clean animal,” Kholikberdiev said. “Not only is it a herbivore but it washes all its food before it eats. And it’s very high in omega-3 acids. A lot of doctors and dietitians recommend it.”
Like many rodents, nutrias reproduce at a fast rate, making them an easy and cheap animal to farm-- and keep up a steady supply.
In the 1990s, the animal was used a cheap substitute for traditional fur coats. The excess carcasses led to the consumption of the animal's meat, the chef said.
Kholikberdiev also says the quality of nutria makes it easier to cook and more difficult to dry out compared to other, more traditional proteins like chicken. It’s so easy, in fact, that the chef has incorporated the animal into a series of different menu items including a nutria hotdog, nutria dumplings and nutria wrapped in cabbage leaves.
But will nutria unseat other unconventional proteins taking other eateries by storm? Crickets, traditionally served in Mexican dishes, provide more than twice the protein in beef and contain all nine essential amino acids, according to Men’s Health.
Maybe they could be using as a topping for the next Nutria burger, instead.