Despite what the supermarket aisles 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 meats from establishments across the Valley. This week: Pig's Blood from Com Tam Thuan Kieu.
The Ick Factor: It's blood. If you've chomped down on your tongue too hard or sucked on a cut thumb as a kid, you're familiar with the hot, metallic tang of blood.
Unless you joined the ranks of the undead lately, it's unlikely that you'll be consuming blood with great fervor in the coming weeks. Even with Halloween around the corner, the closest most of us will get to going blood sucker is biting down on those terrible fake blood tablets to compliment our vampire attire. Surprisingly, those red chemical pellets taste way worse than actual coagulated blocks of blood, sometimes referred to as blood tofu.
If you've ever used pan drippings from a pot roast as a base for your gravy, you've taken advantage of the flavorful natural juices (blood and other drippings) that are created during the process of cooking. Pig's blood may not be as unfamiliar and taboo as you think.
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: The intimidating Pork Blood Soup, one of over 200 items on the menu at Com Tam Thuan Kieu, a Vietnamese restaurant located in the Mekong Plaza at Main and Dobson.
Tastes Just Like: Liver flavored tofu. It's unsurprising that cooked blood cakes taste similar to calf or chicken livers, organs that filter blood day in, day out. If anything, the congealed pig's blood had an even subtler flavor profile than liver generally does. It was rich and meaty, with a faint metallic aftertaste and a slight muskiness.
The texture was also somewhat of a cross between liver and tofu. The blood cubes were slightly toothsome when bitten, much like a firm tofu, and initially reflected tofu's silky texture. Bites of blood had a tendency to crumble apart after this initial tofu-like sensation, leaving behind the almost grainy textural aftertaste characteristic of most liver.
These blocks of pig blood were afloat in a subtle, but flavorful clear broth that smelled like pork soup and reflected the meaty, musky flavor of the blood. Scallions and slivers of onions were also present in the broth and offered a nice textural crunch when paired with spoonfuls of pork blood and broth.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: It's been cooked until overly hard. Much like liver, pig's blood should be treated with delicacy when cooking. Varying the cooking time determines how firm the blood will be, and it can range from a silken texture that melts in your mouth to an extra firm block-o-blood.
Always been a DIY-er? Hit up Mekong Plaza, Lee Lee's or the Chinese Cultural Center and pick up some pig's blood. There aren't a lot of recipes online for creating this type of clear pork blood soup, so put on your culinary wiz kid cap and start experimenting!
Know of some offal we have to try? Leave the details in the comment section.