Pigs blood and liver sauce

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While in Bali I decided to pay a visit to Hujan Locale, a restaurant that prides itself in serving lesser known dishes from all over the Indonesian isles. Even though we had a reservation, we had to wait quite a bit for a table, which was a bit of a bummer, but some inventive cocktails at the bar softened the blow. Looking at the menu, there were lots of interesting dishes, but one in particular caught my eye. A confit pork belly in a sauce made of pig’s blood and liver.

The dish was presented nicely with some pork crackling and a fern tip salad, though it did all look a bit gray. Dreading the taste of the sauce I nibbled on a few bits of pork and salad before I was brave enough to try it. My initial thoughts were: “Hey, this isn’t that bad.” that slowly merged into: “Hey, this is actually pretty nice.” The sauce, though slightly iron-y, was also laced with andaliman pepper and other spices and overall had a rich flavor that complimented the pork belly quite well.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 7

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Goat liver mousse

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A few entries ago I wrote about a visit to the amazing restaurant Locavore in Bali where I was served dried goats heart as part of a tasting menu. That dish actually had a few more twists up its sleeve. It consisted mostly of a goats liver mousse.

I love patés and liver mousse in general, but had never even heard of using goats liver. Goat can have a real barnyardy flavour which I don’t always enjoy. In this case there was still a small hint petting zoo, but it was perfectly countered by the richness of the liver mousse. It was really creamy and delicious with just enough barnyard flavour to remind you that you’re eating goat.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8

Dried goat heart

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I’m in Bali as we speak, which is why I haven’t updated my blog over the past few days. The Internet isn’t always great and I’ve just been too busy eating my way around the island. One of the many amazing restaurants I visited was Locavore, a restaurant that celebrates local ingredients and made it to the top restaurants in Asia list as the number one restaurant in Indonesia.

Among the many strange and unusual sounding ingredients was one that immediately caught my attention – cured smoked goat heart. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this on any menu anywhere, but I have seen it done with dried tuna heart though only on TV.

My dish was presented at the table along with a hunk of dried meat that was in fact the goat heart. It was then Shaved over the dish much like you would a truffel or parmesan cheese. It was a little tricky to get a bite of just the heart, but what I did manage to taste was a little salty and not at all unlike a raw cured ham. In the end it may not have added a great deal of flavour to the dish, but it certainly added some drama.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 8

Duck tongue dumplings

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Here in China it’s quite common to find a place to buy all kinds of roasted duck snacks. You’ll find the necks, the heads and also the tongues. I had tried beef tongue before, which I liked, but duck tongue is something else. There something about the look that just puts you off. For one, you don’t get an indistinguishable slice, but the whole tongue. Also, duck tongues are just alien looking as they are forked like a snake’s.

While I was in Singapore I went out for some dim sum at a restaurant by Masterchef Canada judge Alvin Leung. I had eaten in some of his restaurants before and always enjoyed his take on Chinese food. On the menu was a duck tongue dumpling which I could not pass on. The dumpling wrapper was extremely delicate and was stuffed with a mixture of vegetables. This was topped with a whole duck tongue. Honestly, I couldn’t tell much of the flavor as the stuffing dominated the dish, but I definitely recognized the tongue by its chewiness. I think this is one thing I’ll have to try again on its own.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 6

Sheep’s head jelly

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My recent travels brought me to Iceland, where I spent a couple of days exploring the beauty of this land. I stayed in Reykjavik and made day trips from there. Obviously most of the meals I had were indeed in Reykjavik. One of the best locations was at Café Loki, with a view of the gorgeous Halgrimmskirkja church. It was here that I ordered the local delicacy of sheep’s head jelly.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the first thing that popped in my mind as it arrived was “head cheese”. It was indeed just that, a block of jelly with lots of little pieces of meat taken from a boiled sheep’s head. In this case the jelly was sliced and served on flatbread with some mashed turnips. I thought I could handle that.I was wrong.

Well, I was half right. I could handle it when eaten together with the bread and mash, but on its own it wasn’t all that appetizing. Actually the jelly-like texture, the sometimes chewy pieces of skin and the at times barnyardy flavor were kind of off-putting. I managed to eat it all, only because of the accompaniments.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 3

Whole crispy chicken skin

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I’m not a fan of chicken skin, or fish skin or any other skin for that matter, but I do enjoy a bit of crackling with my meat. With that in mind I ordered the crispy chicken skin at Err in Bangkok. Err is a Bib Gourmand endorsed restaurant in Bangkok that serves food from around Thailand, without too much focus on curries. I also had a great northern Thai spiced sausage.

What really attracted me to the chicken skin dish was the visual. It wasn’t just a piece of skin, It was an entire skin, legs and all, that was kept in place. It looked like a whole roast chicken with all the meat magically taken out. There was a slight disappointment in the size, as it was quite small, but it definitely looked the part. It was served with a homemade spice sriracha sauce.

The skin was indeed addictively crunchy, letting you snap off small pieces at a time. There were only a few parts were he skin was folded over that it became a little bit limp. The taste was definitely that of roast chicken, but with an extra high level of flavor that you don’t get from the meat. At points it was even a little like being in a petting zoo. The sauce was super spicy, but it was a spice that didn’t linger and made for a nice accompaniment.

Fear Factor – 1 / Tastes Test – 7

Beef tongue taco

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Although I have written about beef tongue before, I decided to include this entry to my blog because this time it wasn’t a small cube or thin sliver. This was an actual thick slab of tongue so I could finally taste it for what it is.

I’ve been staying in Mexico over the past few weeks, after my trip to New York, and made a weekend trip to Mexico. On advise – not personally – of Anthony Bourdain, I went for some midnight snacks at tacqueria Los Cocuyos. They serve tacos de cabeza, which translates to head tacos. You order your tacos by the body part, and I went for sausage, cheek and tongue.

As I mentioned a thick slice of beef tongue was cut off right in front of me from a whole tongue. It had a great texture. It was chewy, yet soft like a slow roast brisket. It had a good beefy flavor that was complemented by just the right amount of chili and lime. If anyone is afraid to try organ meat do try some tongue, it will change your mind forever.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 9

Scrapple

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While visiting the States the past week I was particularly interested in trying out traditional local foods. In New York I tried some bagels, cheesecake and deli sandwiches. In Philadelphia you might think I’d order a cheesesteak, but instead I tried some Pennsylvania Dutch food, including scrapple.

Scrapple is one of those dishes invented for using up every last scrap, hence the name, of the animal like head cheese. Offal, the head and other bits and pieces of a pig are boiled until the broth and meat become one big mush, which is then left to congeal. It’s then often sliced, crumbed and fried, usually for breakfast.

It was indeed breakfast time when I tried this dish. My blogger friend Paul took, who lives near Philadelphia, took me to Pennsylvania Dutch diner, but he wouldn’t touch any scrapple. That made me a little hesitant, but I tried anyway. It wasn’t exceptionally tasty, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It kind of reminded me of a meat croquette that we eat in Holland, made with a ragout that’s then fried as the scrapple was rather soft and mushy on the inside as well. It didn’t have a very strong flavor, but that could be a good thing.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 7

Spicy duck neck

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People in Lanzhou sure seem to like duck. There is a little duck shop in almost every street selling spicy roasted duck. Now I’m not talking about a whole one like in Beijing, but about odd ends like tongues, heads and necks. Surprisingly nobody seems to care about the breasts. One of my student’s moms gave me a bag of spicy duck necks. It’s almost as if she’d read my blog.

I was quite apprehensive I must admit. Not because I don’t like duck, I do, but because I knew it was going to be all bones, and I don’t enjoy gnawing for meat. Does that make me a picky eater, or is it the opposite? Low and behold, there were a lot of bones. Something’s got to hold up old duckface after all. However, it was actually quite easy to get a bit of meat off of it, and plenty of it. The meat had a nice chewy texture, but was still soft and the spice gave it just the right amount of kick.

Fear Factor: 3 – Taste Test – 8

Chicken feet

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One of the first things I noticed in the supermarkets and restaurants in China was the astonishing amount of chicken feet for sale. At the time it grossed me out completely, but now seven years on I was ready to bite the bullet. The things I do for my blog.

I always knew I wasn’t going to like it, simply because I don’t enjoy eating meat on the bone and these chicken feet are pretty much all bone and no meat. That’s why I was happy to see a bowl of chicken feet coming round to my table on a conveyor belt hot pot restaurant. At least I could take just one instead of having to pay for an entire plate.

Once it was cooked I took hold and started to nibble. That soon stopped. There wasn’t really anything to nibble on. I was merely scraping of limp skin or cartilage of the bones with my teeth. Now I do enjoy some chicken skin when it’s crispy, but this flaccid thing just made me shudder.

Fear Factor – 7 / Taste Test – 1