Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the valley.
This week: Phnom Penh Noodle Soup served up by the newly opened Cambodian restaurant, Sekong By Night.
The Ick Factor: Intestine and liver and heart, oh my! While this offal trifecta may sound a bit intimidating, it contains one of the best cuts o' beast out there for inducting someone into the realm of offal eats: Pork Heart. Chicken, beef and pork hearts are lean, mean, blood pumping machines.
Bloody disgusting? We prefer to think of them as bloody delicious. But if this noodle soup still sounds a bit on the strange side, just consider the fact that every time you snap into a Slim Jim, you're snapping into tasty, ground heart bits (among other questionable ingredients). Slim Jim or a delicate rice noodle soup? We think the choice is clear.
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: A bowl of Phnom Penh Noodle Soup from the newly opened Cambodian restaurant, Sekong By Night. In addition to wide, flat rice noodles, bits of mint, cilantro, scallion, and garlic were afloat in a meaty broth. Well, in addition to the slices of pork heart, intestine, liver, mini shrimp and bits of ground pork.
Tastes Just Like: Slightly musky slices of steak. Despite being a gruesome sounding cut of pork, it shares many of the same characteristics as more familiar porky or even beefy cuts. Unlike some offal that can have a soft and unctuous texture, pork heart has the meaty bite of thin-sliced steak. The flavor of pork heart is just a bit on the musky side with a slightly metallic aftertaste, but it is nowhere near as pungent as liver, kidney, and other common offal bits.
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The taste and texture of just about any type of heart makes it an ideal first-tier offal meat that should be familiar to many diners. It tastes like a pork-beef hybrid. It has a texture of a pork-beef hybrid. And if you cut it into thin slices, it even looks like...well, at least the taste and texture are familiar. Pork heart has some weird looking valves extending off the top.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: It tastes like gamey old shoe leather. The older the pig heart, the more pumping it did before going out of commission. It's like the difference between stringy mutton and succulent lamb chops. Since heart can be a bit tough at times, look for dishes or recipes that use either a quick sear or a long and low stew to soften up those hearty chunks of tough muscle meat.
Always been a DIY-er? Pork heart isn't as common as chicken or beef hearts, but can still be picked up at any Mexi-mart or a pan-Asian mega market. Snag a couple pig hearts and whip up some Cambodian noodle soup, with whatever extra meaty cuts your little heart desires.
Know of some offal that we just have to try? Let us know in the comment section.