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Nose-to-tail eating is nothing new. Native Americans are famous for utilising every single part of the buffalo, while haggis might be the most infamous dish known to man.
But while humans have been enjoying nose-to-tail eating out of necessity for thousands of years, it’s only recently that offal has made a comeback in some of the world’s greatest restaurants. But while many of you may be familiar with sweetbreads, devil’s kidneys and the like, chances are you’ve yet to experience some of Asia’s offal-ly goodness.
So if you’re adventurous and want to try something uniquely authentic and help with general sustainability, here are some of our favourite offal dishes straight out of Asia!
While the job they do isn’t necessarily the nicest, kidneys are a delicious, tender, savoury treat. In China, as pork is the most eaten animal, you might find pig kidneys stir-fried with oyster sauce, ginger and garlic. Kidney’s are a common additive to soups and broth thanks to their rich and meaty flavour.
Phillipinos have been making use of offal for years, and kidneys appear in dishes like sisig, dinakdakan and warek-warek.
The liver is another widely eaten organ. In Hong Kong, for example, it’s roasted with honey and served in dim sum, or made into a dim sum sandwich with pork fat, ginger and char siu pork. Indonesians like to make rendang curry with fried liver or served on skewers with satay sauce. Malaysians love theirs deep fried and served on vegetables, while in the Philippines you can grab a delicious chicken liver adobo.
If you’ve ever had yum cha you’ve no doubt seen braised chicken feet on offer, but the Cantonese aren’t the only ones who view them as a delicacy. Pork feet in a vinegar stew is popular all through China. The Japanese prefer cow feet in stews, and of course, the filo people use them in a variety of dishes. Thai’s even make a curry out of pig feet which is suitably rich and meaty thanks to all the collagen, while pork feet steamed in a special stock are considered a delicacy in Korea.
Probably the most widely eaten piece of offal across Asia, it seems that basically everyone has a dish involving intestine. It may be because of the sheer length of them, but one can’t be sure. In China, hawkers sell deep-fried pork intestines dipped in a sweet bean sauce, a delicious snack on the go. If it’s cold outside, why not grab a spicy stew with preserved mustard, tofu, pork intestine and congealed pigs blood? Koreans prefer their intestines grilled with pigs blood or in the popular traditional Korean sausage called sundae, made with steamed pork small intestines filled with pork blood, seasoned noodles, and vegetables. Indonesians love to throw some into spicy curries like gulai usus. Isaw is a street food popular in the Philippines made with pig and chicken intestine pieces which are skewered, barbecued, and dipped in vinegar before eating.
Hong Kong noodle shops love to add some chopped and stir-fried lung to their dishes to add some umami and savoury flavour. In Indonesia, cow’s lung – called paru – is coated with spices like turmeric and coriander and then fried. Paru is also common throughout Malaysia. There’s a meaty stew popular through south-east Asia called sekba which utilizes lungs, while bopis is a spicy Filipino dish made out of pork lungs and heart sautéed in tomatoes, chillies and onions.
Is there an Asian haggis I hear you ask? Sadly, the answer appears to be no, though stomachs are widely eaten. Indonesians love to fry up cows’ stomach and serve it in soup. Sa nuea sadung is a northern Thai salad of semi-raw beef cuts, including sliced stomach, and even the contents of a cow’s first stomach are eaten in Thailand.
The delicate texture of tongue is much prized across Asia. The Chinese serve pork tongue slices with salt and sesame oil as a starter. Cow or goat tongue is sliced and fried in a spicy sauce in Indonesia, but more often beef tongues are cooked in a semur stew. And, of course, we can’t forge the Philippines, who prefer to stew beef tongue in a creamy dish called lengua.