That’s Offal!: Tongue

In food on 04/21/2011 at 11:15 am

I haven’t used my own recipes for awhile, but if Gwyneth Paltrow can come out with a cookbook with a recipe for siracha, then by golly, I should really think about writing one. It would be a Taiwanese memoir-recipe-food truck adventure story. There’s a definite niche for that. Does this mean I actually have to own a food truck first?

Soul comfort for me lies in offal. I don’t mean the faux-innard terrines or ground up bits stuffed in casings that obliterates the true form of the organ. I like eating wholly visible ear, tongue, snout, tail, heart, liver, kidney, brain, pancreas, etc… You don’t have to call it by another name or deep fry it coated in batter.

I am proud to say I introduced the other half to innards. Skepticism was slowly replaced by enthusiasm. Now I get requests for uterus to go with our rice, which is promptly wolfed down with gusto. It practically warms my tiny black heart.

The only texture I haven’t enjoyed is lung. It’s spongy so all I can think while I’m eating it is what sorts of toxins were soaked into it during the animal’s lifetime. Then again, that goes for any organ, any flesh. But if I could get my hands on naturally-raised and pasture-fed lung, I’m sure I could make it taste good.

My favorite organ is tongue. When cooked, it is QQ, meaty without beings overly gamey, and a good counterpoint for softer textures in the rest of the meal. The Taiwanese way to cook most innards is red braising, slow simmered in a soy sauce mixture of some sort. But I prefer the boiled and dipped in minced garlic infused soy paste version. Usually each pig tongue is al dente after 30 minutes. I prefer it pink in the middle. The other half loves to see the hairy taste buds sticking up. My mother used to scrape them off, but I think they add a nice crunch.

The flavor of garlic and soy paste is like eating dirt, so earthy and umami it fills the crevices of craving you have in the pits of your stomach. Soy paste is thicker than soy sauce, so it coats whatever you dip in it, which makes it even more unctuously good. I love it so much I started making batches of the sauce and slathering it on anything I ate. It’s perfect on a steamy bowl of white rice.

With boiled pig tongue, I usually pair it with rice, but on a brisk day, herbal soup is perfect too. This time, the light bulb went off and I decided to make it with my pig tongue broth. Usually the old-timers tell you to dump out or skim off the froth that bubbles up from the boiling tongue, but that’s where all that funky flavor of the meat resides. So I just put in Dr. Mud’s dong quai and a handful of fructis litchi in with the ol’ tongue while it simmered (a variation on my chicken shittake mushroom stew), cooked up a pot of rice on the side, seasoned the soup with a cup of white wine, boiled for 5 minutes after taking out the tongue to rest, and combined everything for a down home, authentic, Taiwanese treat. Cooking the rice on the side retains the sticky QQ in the starch.

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