The Restaurant: Restaurante Salvadoreño The Animal: Beef The Dish: Lengua de Res Guisada
Have you ever eaten beef tongue?
Most cultures (excluding our squeamish, wasteful American one) use all edible parts of the animal, routinely taking the snout-to-tail approach that chefs have made fashionable here in the States in recent years.
But my mother was a Southern cook, and Southerners are known for eating anything that doesn't eat them first. So beef tongue was standard stuff at our house.
I'll admit, looking at a three-pound slab of uncooked tongue -- nubbly little taste buds and all -- isn't the most appetizing thing in the world.
But once it's been simmered for hours (and the outer skin pulled off), sliced and tucked into sandwiches with plenty of mustard, it's a fantastic piece of muscle meat: moist and full of rich, beefy flavor -- akin to pot roast but less stringy and a bit more spongy.
Its preparation can be as varied as the ethnicity of the people who cook it. Tongue can be pickled, tucked into tacos, slathered with Korean barbecue sauce, or made into a lovely stew.
If you're game to try beef tongue, consider taking the plunge at Restaurante Salvadoreño, a family-run Salvadoran restaurant in Mesa (with two other metro Phoenix locations) and here's why:
At Salvadoreño, the tongue comes sliced a half-inch thick and smothered in faintly garlicky tomato sauce, making it look like unintimidating ovals of roast beef -- more or less.
So you're over the "I'm eating a cow's tongue" hurdle pretty quickly. And the meat is so tender you can cut it with the edge of your fork. Trust me, two bites in and you'll be hooked.
Served with ultra-soupy black beans, vegetable-studded rice, and puffy pupusas (the better to mop up every drop of excellent sauce), it's the sort of satisfying, uncomplicated dish ($10.25) that brings Sunday dinners and grandmas to mind.
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Adventurous eaters like to say, "I eat everything but the moo," but after finishing off a plate of lengua de res guisada, you'll be tempted to say, "I eat the moo, too."