Cock’s Testicles for Three: A Saigon Special

cock's testicles

My testicles?!

So how does this get to something like Cock’s Testicles? The two Aussies I met on the flight into Saigon and I have forged a grand alliance, and have become mates, chums, buddies. Rob is the tall one, a typical Aussie blond beach boy, beer chugging, ball playing good fella. He’s the quieter of the two, but always ready to shout “Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!” Leon is the other side of the coin, the cock o’ the walk. He is everywhere mistaken for an Israeli commando on leave. Until he opens his mouth and says “G’day.”

Together we three are Mighty Men about the town. We stride the boulevards with large steps. We show largesse to the poor and to all the pretty girls. The pick-pockets fear us, and the dames love us. I have even taught a bar maid to address us as Mighty Rob and Mighty Leon and Mighty Dick. Hee hee. (Well she couldn’t pronounce “Richard” could she.)

The Mighty Men went to dinner last night, and I still glow with the achievement. Half a mile north of the Apocalypse Now bar, on Hai Ba Trung Blvd., lies a cluster of densely packed sidewalk restaurants alive with feasting. Choose any one with an open table. They’re all good. But be especially aware of the one with a second story terrace overlooking all the scene, for that is the one we Mighty Men call Restaurant No.

We had picked our way through the crowd, climbed the steep and narrow stairs, and emerged onto a terrace happily strewn with lobster and crab shells, awash in beer, and afloat upon a thick cloud of hubbub and bustle. A short, slim, intense looking waiter beckoned, nay commanded, us with an imperious gesture to sit at a table from which he was sweeping the remnants of the previous meal onto the floor.

We took the proffered seats and commanded “Beer!” But before the monosyllable was out the young cur had disappeared, off to order some other diner to do his bidding. Then he returned with a single menu, dropped it on the table and ran. “Beer!” we shouted to his receding back. Some minutes later he returned at a near run, handing off bottles of beer like relay batons as he sped by. Mollified by suds we relaxed while I perused the menu. Rob and Leon declared that since I was the Indiana Jones of Gastronomy, and since we had only the one stingy menu, I should order for all three of the Mighty Men.

At length our surely servant returned with pen and order pad. He had spoken not word one to us since our arrival and even now stood sphinx like, poised to take our order. “Well,” I began. “We’ll have…” And the beggar ran off again to some distant call! “Beer!” Rob hollered after him. Miraculously he returned with more beer. I reopened the menu and glared at him, as if threatening to trip him if he should try to escape again.

I pointed to chicken on the menu and said, “This one.” He nodded and wrote in his pad. And wrote and wrote. Perhaps he was noting my particulars for some future police line up. “And we’ll have this,” I said, pointing to water greens with ginger. Again he wrote and wrote. And by now Rob and Leon were beginning to snigger at the whole scene. “And we’ll have…” whereupon the miscreant turned around, hurled a stream of Vietnamese curses and then ran off to punish some other diner!

When he returned I held him firmly by the shirtsleeve, and pointed to Beef in Sauce on the menu, and said, “Gimmie that.” He wrote and wrote, then moved to leave. But I held him fast, and pointed to fish and said, “That. Bring me that.”

“No!” came the reply, his first and only word.

“What?! What?! Waddaya mean, no?!”

“No!”

“But I want fish. Fish! Fish and be damned, you rascal!”

“No!” Then he pointed to all the other items I had ordered and nodded, as if to say, “You may have that and no more.”

“Blast you! Fish!”

Again he pointed to the other items. And now Rob and Leon were laughing out loud. “This is like Fawlty Towers with you as John Cleese and he’s Manuel,” Leon guffawed.

“I am speaking English pronto,” Rob mimicked.

It occurred to me that the restaurant might be out of fish. In a conciliatory tone I pointed to a dish of pork cooked in a clay pot.

“No!”

“What, you’re out of pork too? Then this one.”

“No!”

“Then this one.”

“No!”

“Aarrrgg! You can’t be out of everything! I want this,” I demanded, pointing to yet another item.

“No!”

“Then I want this one!”

“No!”

“I want it I say!”

“No!”

“Then I want to fuck your mother!”

“No!”

“I know seven virgin nuns that want to smoke your pole!”

“No!”

“Bastard!”

“No!”

With the guys doubled over in laughter and me on the verge of apoplexy, I pointed to the last item on the menu and swore, “Bring me this you son-of-a-gun or I’ll black your eyes!”

“Yes!”

“Waddaya mean yes you…oh…uh, yes?”

“Yes!”

“Okay?”

“Yes!” And with that he snatched the menu from my hands and disappeared.

“Churl!”

Rob and Leon were still chuckling when a Vietnamese fellow diner at the next table leaned over to me grinning and said in fine English, “The reason he says no is because he’s afraid you won’t be able to eat all you order. If there are any substantial leftovers, he has to pay a penalty. But he doesn’t know how to say that.”

“Awww. And I thought he was just being a prick.”

“We’ll have to make sure we clean our plates,” Rob said.

“We’ll eat every bite,” Leon promised.

And for my part, I resolved to grant the waiter a thousand pardons and to not tell the guys that the last dish I had been able to order was cock’s testicles braised with garlic cloves.

The waiter, whom we had dubbed “Dr. No” arrived unbidden with more beer and the chicken. It was a whole bird, though rather small, like a game hen, but roasted and spiced to a state of gustatory poetry. I prodded it with a chopstick and found it meaty and fat for all its puny size. Then came the water greens with ginger, dusted with that black pepper that is unique to Vietnam. It’s less biting, flowery and almost sweet to the taste. It’s nearly good enough to eat by itself. Then the beef in sauce swaggered fatly to the table, redolent of some fine liquore, done to blood rare perfection, graced with slivered onions and garlanded lordly with fresh green herbs. Fluffy white rice sat chastely beside. And lastly came a dish of glistening gonads.

They were piled on a six inch silver serving dish mounted on a pedestal, rather like a Via dish of cock's testiclesctorian candy dish one might see on some grandmother’s sideboard or locked in her china cabinet. A twist of lime and a sprig of cilantro balanced the presentation. The garlic with which the balls had been braised were fat, snowy whole cloves. And the several roosters’ family jewels were very like the cloves in size, shape and color. Indeed, I had to look closely to tell which was which, and they were about equal in number. The testes were distinguishable only by a more rounded appearance, rather like that of kidney beans. I was surprised and impressed at the very size of Foghorn Leghorn’s endowment, I say I was impressed and surprised, son, and thought it should give enlarged meaning to the term “cock o’ the walk.” I paused to wonder about the dimensions of his other apparatus, but the time had come to taste.

Rob had noticed the strange dish and recognized the garlic cloves. “Ah. Giahlic,” he said in Strine (Aussie dialect). “Smells good.”

“I love giahlic,” Leon concurred.

Lifting my chopsticks I gingerly fished out a rooster’s best and brought beneath my nose. The scent of garlic roiled up, mingled with some undefinable masculine aroma. I slipped it into my mouth and rolled it around testingly between tongue and palate. It was firm yet pliable, like a grape. I probed its envelope with my incisors and determined it to have a resistance a bit more than that of a plump kernel of corn, perhaps with the same creamy richness within. I rolled it over to the right side of my mouth, positioned it between my wisdom teeth, and bit down. The outer surface stretched and strained, and under the pressures of the omnivore’s generalized dentition that is the result of a million years of evolution, the little DNA factory burst, and spilled itself across the surface of my tongue.

In texture, consistency and taste, the rooster’s physical connection with eternity was not unlike that of a mild and smooth goose liver pate’, expressing a bit of juice. Knowing as I do that human taste buds are distributed according to a set pattern, I spread the contents of what Grey’s Anatomy calls an “organ of generation” evenly over the tasting battery so as to discover its composition. I found the bird’s instrument of continuity to be a bit salty, though you might have guessed that, with echoes of sweet, sour and bitter in such proportion as to obtain the sort of balance aspired to by the Chinese cook’s philosophy of Yin and Yang, or the ancient Greek’s “golden mean.” It was rich and creamy, and I suppose you might have guessed that, too. It went down as easy as oysters.

Leon and Rob were helping themselves to the other dishes, so I picked up a testicle and put it in Leon’s rice bowl. “Oh, thanks, mate,” he said, and popped it into his mouth and began to chew. Then he looked somewhat confused. I told him what it was. There is a certain gravity in the term “cock’s testicle” that makes it impossible to be a joke. If some one tells you that you have one in your mouth you know instantly that it must needs be true.

Rob asked, “So how do you like the sperm packet, Leon?” Leon continued to chew, but almost imperceptably slowly, as though weighing his options. Rob reached across the table and took a morsel from the dish, chewed experimentally, and pronounced, “It tastes just like giahlic.”

“That’s because you just ate a clove of garlic, ” I said. “Here.” And I served him the genuine article. He boldly chewed, swallowed, then reached for another gonad saying, “This puts me in mind of how they ‘nad sheep in the outback. The old timers just pick up the little boy lambs by the hind legs and chomp off their balls with their teeth.”

I looked at Leon, who was now still more indecisive. “Come on, Leon,” I prodded. “Just think of it as a rooster coming in your mouth.

That did the trick. Leon choked, swallowed involuntarily, then turned pale. “I’m glad to see that you’re swallower and not a spitter,” I told him. Leon took a long long drink of beer. I selected the most garlicky looking gonad in the dish and handed it to him saying, “Here, try the garlic now.”

“Oh, cheers, mate,” he said with relief, quickly followed by “You bastard!” But by then his mouth was no longer virginal, and he gamely swallowed. And so we feasted. We ate the small but plump and juicy chicken. We ate the aromatic water greens. We ate the blood-red beef and the wedding-white rice. And we ate the pungent lily and poulet’s privates. We quaffed more beer. In the end the table bore only clean plates, a little pyramid of chicken bones, and 12 empty beer bottles. Dr. No would pay no penalty this night.

As I sat in the afterglow, the fellow diner at the next table asked, “How did you enjoy your dinner?”

“It was magic,” said I. Although we could have ordered more with no danger to the waiter. That chicken was very small.”

“Oh, but it’s large for its type,” he assured me. “It’s a small breed but this restaurant serves only the male of the species so that you always have the biggest possible.”

The male of the species. That it might have been either one sex or the other had not occurred to me. So it was a rooster then. It was a… Well, suffice it to say, that last night for dinner, the Mighty Men ate cock and balls. And we’ll lick any man who says aught against it!

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