Bats are capable of living comfortably with a host of viruses, and recent outbreaks of diseases have been linked to them, specifically SARS, MERS and now the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The virus is believed to have originated from a wet market in Wuhan, where wildlife was illegally sold and bats were one of the products regularly offered there.
Research has shown that the virus originated from bats before it was passed on to humans but it looks like bat meat is still popular in some parts of Indonesia despite warnings. In fact, demand for bat meat continues, and is often sold out especially in North Sulawesi, Reuters reported.
The Minhasan people there love to cook whole bats in a curry-like dish known as Paniki. Bat seller Stenly Timbuleng from Tomohon told Reuters that sales of bat meat have not been affected by the coronavirus and people would buy so much that it gets sold out. He usually sells 50-60 bats per day but during festive periods, he can sell up to 600.
“Bats are the favourite indigenous protein, particularly in North Sulawesi,” said Indonesian culinary expert and author of half a dozen cookbooks, William W. Wongso. The chefs would remove the glands from the armpits and the neck of the bat so that there is no bad smell.
The prepared bat is grilled or torched to remove the hairs. Then, the whole bat, including the head and wings, is chopped and cooked in a stew of herbs, spices and coconut milk, making it look almost like a curry. While many Manadonese restaurants in the capital, Jakarta, have removed bats from their menus, people in North Sulawesi are still eating bats.
Manadonese Jufry Mantak said that he doesn’t mind eating bats at all although COVID-19 has been linked to bats. “We have not found any (coronavirus) cases in Manado. Up till now, there are still many people eating these bats. Because bats are good, especially when cooked with coconut milk,” he added. The novel coronavirus has killed 1,115 people and infected 45,171 globally so far.
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