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How do you eat ducks tongues?

  • r

I know exotic foods get discussed to death on Chowhound, but while looking for info about how ducks tongues taste, I came across great article about exotic eats by John Hodgman, who has a Steinbeck-esque quality to his writing about food.

Talking about eating snails in a New York Nigerian restaurant, where he is given the baby version instead of the larger snail he writes

"The snail, some four inches of meaty mollusk, is leathery and unctuous at the same time, tasting sour and strong … I feel that strange mixture of failure and relief when one is patronized to, when one doesn’t get the fist-size snail."

Anyway, about ducks tongues he says that they are surprisingly large, about thumb-sized, with “luxuriously dense meat” and a cartilage in the center.

So, how do you eat them? Do you pop the whole thing in your mouth, chew it up and remove it like an olive pit ... with your fingers? ... with the chopstick? … and place it like a chicken bone on the plate?

If you’ve tried a duck tongue, what does it taste like? Hodgman says he could eat them all day. A SF poster’s Chinese mother says she doesn’t much care for them. What is the appeal if any? What is the best type of dish to try them out?

Very interesting, funny article with vivid descriptions (and even pictures) of some of the more exotic dishes he has eaten from chicken feet “they stimulate and condense every memory I have of good chicken soup” to comments about Mario Batali (“the beclogged one has surely fed more tripe to tourists than any C-list producer on Broadway”)

For some of the items I have tried, like calf’s foot soup he just so nails how it tastes … “strange, gooey, fatty tackiness of pigs’ feet … make you feel hungry again even after visiting a slaughterhouse.”

There are items I have never heard of before like vastedde (calf’s-spleen sandwiches), cockscombs (with picture and a great description beneath it. I would know what to expect and later the culinary benefits), Cuy, a sort of Ecuadorian guinea-pig (picture included, ya gotta read the description of these), and fat, sweet wax worms.

Though I heard of and seen durian, his description of durian cream pie is wonderful.

And for those of you who live in the NYC area, he has the names and addresses of restaurants where you can try these dishes, like the Lamb’s Tongue, Almond Butter, and Red-Currant Jelly Sandwich.

Talking about duck blood tacos, Hodgman says “even though it was delicious and fragrant with cilantro, at the end of the day it only tasted like cowardice. And cowardice, of course, tastes like chicken.”

Now about those ducks tongues … any comments? I have to start somewhere.

Link: http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/food/...

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  1. I've had'em only at dim sum places in LA County, and I have been unimpressed. I wanted to like them, but the ones I've had have been devoid of much flavor, and the central part has been more like bone than cartilage; perhaps they have simply been undercooked. They have also all been quite small. As for Mr. Hodgman's saying he could "eat them all day", the two or three times I've tried them I sorta felt that's what I was doing. Very tedious, trying to scrape a tiny layer of tasteless meat off a sharp spine, and not IMO worth the effort.

    Chicken feet, OTOH, are sublime at these places, provided one gets the hot (dark) braised ones rather than the cold (white) boiled ones. Supremely chickeny.

    1. I braised one last week, along with the duck's head. It was gelatinous, slimy, sort of briny tasting as it melted on my tongue, whitish color. I removed the bone thingy in the middle before eating it, actually once braised, his head just sort of snapped apart into pieces with a gentle tug. I think I preferred his brain and cheek meat to the tongue, but wouldn't mind trying the tongue again prepared in fat (confit) or aspic.

      1. I eat the whole thing, cartilage included.

        1. I eat them on quackers.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jef

            LOL Those would be some silent quackers at that point.

            Link: http://www.thehungersite.com/cgi-bin/...

          2. I had duck tongues served in a rich brown sauce (much like the Shanghainese red-cooked sauce) and I loved 'em. Most of the flavor came from the sauce. I believe that Chinese like things with interesting texture (sea cucumber, for instance, or dofu) and things that take a lot of effort to eat, and thus prolong the meal. Duck tongues have both in abundance. I was also secretly thrilled (and guilty) that fifty ducks had to die so I could have my meal. Like those ancient Romans eating lark's tongues. But I think that the rest of the ducks was put to good use.

              1. re: Gary Soup

                I've eaten rat in New Guinea and in Uganda, both under circumstances ih which it would have been churlish to refuse. The New Guinea version was good. The one in Uganda was delicious. Like the cliche, it tasted like chicken... so much so I thought it would be a good trick to serve it to friends. (I didn't.)It was a field rat, so it fed on grain and not garbage. I think it was a real rat and not a grasscutter (see link and photo below), which is a West African rodent often eaten and a good source of protein. The UN even investigated raising them in farms as a food supply for malnourished areas, and the FAO supports some small-scale grascutter-raising businesses in Ghana.

                Link: http://www.knust.edu.gh/cbud/grasscut...

                Image: http://www.knust.edu.gh/cbud/images/g...

                1. re: Brian S

                  Yeah, the reason I liked John Hodgman was not so much about eating exotic food, but the fact that he tried it, wrote about it beautifully, and makes you want to step outside the accepted boundries.

                  It got started on the San Francisco board about the Chinese banguet put on for professional food writers. These people would not touch even innocent food ... some didn't want to even eat the pork because pork is fatty.

                  So they left the ducks tongues, pigs ears, etc. This is their JOB ... to report about food.

                  Hodgmen wrote:

                  “It is astonishing how quickly and thoroughly we have purged our tables of … Any food that is spongy. Any food that is gelatinous. We rarely eat skin, are deeply ambivalent about fat, and almost never eat blood. We largely do not eat creepy-crawlies of any kind, be they insect or reptile. We do not like filter organs or intestines or asses. And perhaps because we fear scrutiny by the animal we are consuming, we shy away from ears, snouts, and eyes.”

                  THIS is what a food writer should be like, not only willing to try something new, but to convey to readers the taste and texture and delicousness of intriguing new foods.

                  The rat digression is interesting, but after all of that, I don't know what rat tastes like. I wouldn't want to try it.

                  Actually I thought it was maybe a joke, so I looked around on the web. Not too much on the web on that city and rat restaurants, but I did find a recipe from 'Recipes of the Damned" for field rat ... with a clove of garlic. I'll post on home cooking if this is an amusing enough site.

                  Speaking of amusing, Jef ... very funny comment. You quacked me up.

                  Link: http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Cont...

                  1. re: rworange

                    Not a joke, Krys. Why shouldn't one want to eat rat? The final photos in the set of fully-cooked rat legs look mighty tasty, and I for one am a lot more conditioned to accept familiar parts of unfamiliar creatures into my diet than unfamiliar parts of familiar creatures. I eat horse in Canada and enjoy it more than duck tongues, but our society in all its wisdom allows me to be served the latter but not the former in San Francisco.

                    A long time ago I attended a lecture by a then noted food anthropologist about societies and food taboos. She concluded by making an observation that went something like "Before you make judgements on what people in other societies eat, answer this question: 'Have you ever eaten an egg?'"

                    Now that's something weird....

                    Link: http://www.hpmuseum.org/china/trip3/d...

                    1. re: Gary Soup

                      One of my friends just sent me a short quote on a black rat curry served to an southern Indian monarch in the early 12th century (a high point of Indian art such as sculpture, so may a cooking high too)

                      "Roast black rat from the kitchens of King Somesvara III, Chalukyan king, 1126 to 1138.

                      "The rats which are strong black, born in the fields and river banks are called maiga; these are fried in hot oil holding with the tail till the hair is removed; after washing with hot water, the stomach is cut and the inner parts are cooked with amla [sour mango] and salt; or the rat is kept on iron rods and fired on red hot coal, till outer skin is burnt or shrinks. When the rat is cooked well, salt, jeera [cumin] and sothi [a flour made from lentils] are sprinkled and relished."
                      from Royal Life in Manasollasa by P. Arundhati (Sundeep Prakashan, Delhi, 1994).

              2. I had them at a wedding banquet in China, and they remain my least favorite thing I've ever eaten (including the garden snails I ate in Africa). All I remember is a disgusting gelatinous texture and a taste of dirt (much like the snails). Perhaps it was the preparation, but everything else at the banquet was pretty great.

                1. Whatever your answer to "how do you eat duck's tongues" turns out to be, remember one important clue:

                  Ducks go to great lengths to avoid doing so.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Wayne Keyser

                    Why, with quackers of course ;-)!

                  2. They're one of those things that even most Chinese will admit is eaten for novelty value rather than deliciousness value.

                    My favorite preparation is skewered and grilled (like a shish kebab). This is something you'd find in a night market or at a Chinese pub-style place where a lot of alcohol is consumed with little salty snacks (peanuts and anchovies, for example) and things grilled on skewers (ducks' tongues, beef and onions, chicken). Sort of like Japanese yakitori.

                    I like ducks' tongues grilled because the part that everyone is describing as gelatinous and slimey turns into a nice crisp exterior. You crunch through this, suck out the slightly fatty, slightly meaty inside, and spit out whatever part you don't feel like chewing. A well-prepared tongue will be so crispy you can easily eat the whole thing.

                    It is indeed tasty, but certainly not filling. In a world where they were equally widely available, I would prefer chicken's feet. In this world, since I see ducks' tongue so rarely, I'd proably reach for the tongue first.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nooodles

                      Thanks to all who answered about the taste and how they were prepared. I guess I won't actively seek these out, only give them a try if the opportunity presents itself.

                    2. It's delicious. I put a whole duck head for my stock and started eating bits and pieces of it like a scavenger and I was pretty surprised at how delicious it was. To me, it tasted a lot like bone marrow. But I also put it in a stock so its softness was likely due to my overcooking it.