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

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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

Pork rind

 

imageAs a kid I never liked any fatty cut of meat, such as pork belly. A hunk of chewy pork rind was the most awful think I could think of. Later, as I grew older, my taste got more adventurous and I started eating things I didn’t like as a kid. In the Philippines I was stuck on a broken down bus for hours and was so hungry I had to make do with the local snack chicharron, which is basically crispy fried pork rinds. I hated it. It just tasted like a petting zoo to me.

Then another time in Hong Kong I tried some pork scratchins from a burger place, which is pretty much the same thing. I hated it. At that time I was convinced that pork rind just isn’t my thing. Now this blog entry is about a more recent exposure to crispy pork rind. That came when a new Yunnan restaurant opened up here in Lanzhou. Food from the province of Yunnan is actually more like Thai food then Chinese. A few bowls of snacks were put out dinner including a set of pork rinds. These ones actually tasted like pork, and not like pig. I rather enjoyed munching on these. That just goes to show that you shouldn’t just try everything, you also need to give things a second chance. Or in this case a third.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 7

Raw horse mane sushi

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As if eating raw horse sushi wasn’t strange enough, the plate of sushi I grabbed from the conveyor belt of a sushi restaurant in Kyoto also presented me with a raw horse mane nigiri. Raw horse mane? What does that even mean? I thought the mane of a horse was the hair growing on its neck, so I reckon this might be the meat from the next.

It turned out to be pretty much a big slice of fat. It was slightly yellow like chicken fat can be. The texture was somewhere between soft and chewy. I was not blown away. I have eaten fat in other places where it was rendered down, and tasted pretty nice, but this was just one horrible bite of fat. I managed to eat it though, but it’s truly a thing of nightmares.

Fear Factor – 9 / Taste Test – 2

Salted beef tongue skewers

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I had tried ox tongue before at a Korean restaurant, where the tongue was very thinly sliced and then grilled on a barbecue. I had wanted to try again to see if I would also enjoy a bigger piece of tongue. On a visit to Japan I finally got my wish. After a long train journey from Tokyo to Osaka, I sat down at the counter of a yakitori grill restaurant and found an exciting array of chicken and other meats on the menu.

Among the options was a so-called salted beef tongue. When my platter of skewers arrived, one of them contained big chunks of tongue, covered in sliced spring onions. Funnily enough this time I had a completely different experience. I didn’t find the taste to be all that profound. I mean, it tasted of beef, but not as concentrated as I had had before. The texture, on the other hand, was much more exciting this time. There was something to chew on, without being chewy. Not like steak at al, but closer to the texture of a chicken breast. After two tries I can definitely conclude that tongue is a pretty tasty part of a cow.

Fear Factor 1 / Taste Test – 7

Duck blood soup

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Having eaten blood sausage before, I’m not afraid of any dish that contains blood. On a recent trip to Shanghai I took my friends for breakfast to one of the best soup dumpling restaurants in the country. On the menu was also a duck blood soup for a less than a dollar. That was a financial risk I was willing to take.

I had imagined to be confronted with a blood red soup, but instead I was served a clear broth with chunks of blood cake in it much like the pig’s blood cake I had tried earlier. At that time I had not liked the texture of that, so I was starting to grow weary. The broth itself was wonderful though, with a strong dosage of ginger. Hey, at least I could drink the broth. It turns out that the duck’s blood cake wasn’t that bad either. Sure, it had a texture like jello, but not the overset jello texture I got from the pig’s blood. This was very much doable, if not even a little tasty.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8

Veal sweetbreads

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Sweet breads are one of those things that chefs always rave about, yet I had never tried. I knew they were some kind of gland and often fried, but that was as far as my knowledge took me. Then last summer I went to visit my family in Holland and took them to a local restaurant called Sjuuteaendj which was voted the most organic restaurant in The Netherlands. As a main course I went for the slow cooked veal, which was served with – you guessed it – sweetbreads.

It turns out sweet breads are a kind of gland that is only found in young animals, which is why I’ve only seen veal sweetbreads served. At this restaurant they were also cooked first and then fried until crispy. This is done to increase the textural experience, as it is very soft if only boiled. I didn’t get a very strong taste of it, but I still thought the texture was a bit mushy and strange. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t exactly like it either. I hope my sister enjoyed the second one I gave to her.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 5