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To Crunch or Not to Crunch -- Edible Cartilage

  • s

The topic on eating skins got me thinking... friends/family that I chow with on a frequent basis know I LOVE to munch on cartilage -- to the point that they will sometimes reserve the pieces for me, although my Mom always worries that someday I'll come up against a piece that is tougher than my molar. I'll happily gnaw on soup bones to get the bits of jelly-like cartilage, I've trained my tongue to make me the "cleanest" eater at the table when we have chicken/duck (every joint gets seperated out in my mouth so I get the bit of cartilage prior to the bone landing on my plate - bone gets picked clean as a whistle), I'll even crunch on the white cartilage pieces in black bean spareribs, chaa siu, etc.

Just wondering if fellow Chowhounds have similar habits?

And for the folks who dine with people doing this, is it annoying, or disgusting?

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  1. I love cartilage. Mrs. ricepad usually gives me her chicken chicken bones or rib bones so I can gnaw every last morsel. She'll only deny me her beef rib bones because she wants the dog to have a little, too.

    1. Cartilage is yummy. There's nothing like a good pork ear. Or duck's tongue. Or chicken wing off a well roasted bird.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Pei

        yum ... all that is left when I dig into a pile of duck tongue is a lil itty bitty stub of bone. And yes, definitely pig's ear too -- I once watched an episode of Fear Factor in which the contestants had to eat boiled pork ear; I told my friends at the time that I could win that round hands down, especially if they had soy sauce on the table (and not for steamed rice).

        1. re: S U

          just had duck tongue for lunch... and not the tongue by itself either. it was still attached to a good chunk of the duck; i think the jawbone-like part that was seperated from the rest of the bill (never majored in anatomy) and i even cracked open that jawbone for the thin strip of ligament/cartilage inside.

          and in response to mielimato below, yes amaebi heads and shell-on salt & pepper shrimp... http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      2. I didn't realize that I was eating way too much of my buffalo wings till I started looking at the remains of my friend's wings. They're leaving meat on there, certainly not crunching of the end and sucking the marrow.

        1 Reply
        1. re: amkirkland

          You're not eating too much, they're eating too little, and wasting some of the best part!

        2. I give my bones to my BF who gleefully eats the whle thing. I had never seen anyone do this until we started dating...you are not alone :)

          1. Definitely to crunch. Besides being tasty, cartilage is full of calcium.

            1. I love eating cartilage. When I look at the way some of my friends leave it on the bone, I think, what a waste. Cartilage is so tasty.

              1. Heck yeah. The 4C's. Cartilage, calcium, consistency, crunch.

                Why leave it on the bone? Seems silly.

                1. Some Chinese restaurants actually serve a dish called chicken knuckles. It's stir fried chicken cartilage.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PeterL

                    yep... tried the dish @ ABC in Oakland Chinatown: yummy, but might be a bit overpriced

                  2. I had some ribs at Angelo's in Fort Worth, TX and I was amazed, cause when the meat ended the succulence continued, I had no idea how much I had missed out on with lesser ribs. I guess that's what happens with Texans who only worry about brisket.

                    1. I do the same thing as you...I LOVE cartilage..chicken cartilage, pork cartilage, etc. It makes for a great crunchy snack when you are eating soft flesh. Marrow in the chicken bones is also tasty, you break them in half and scoop it out with a chopstick.

                      My favorite thing to do is to scrape all the meat off of bbq pork ribs with my teeth. I scrape EVERYTHING off. Its a huge disapointment for me when the meat is "fall off the bone" tender, because there is just no work involved. By the way, I don't eat like this in public, I only do it at home.

                      1. i love crunching on chicken cartilage, gnawing on bone until i've gotten the last tiny pieces of meat off the bone, sucking out bone marrow, breaking open fish heads and slurping out the brain and other gelatinous matter.

                        i think shrimp heads are the best part of the shrimp.

                        i like eating crabs mostly becasue i get to tear off appendages.

                        i realize that doing this sometime makes others lose their appetite, call me an unwashed cannibal, and leave the table.

                        but i enjoy it.

                        1. My dad always chews the cartilage off the ribs as long as I can recall. I kind of picked up on his habit when I occasionally chew off the pork rib or the soup bones.

                          By the way, cartilage is not made of entirely of calcium. It's mostly made of collagen, the protein that makes up our skin and fingernails. The calcium you actually get from cartilage is when the cartilage makes contact with the bone. This is certainly off the topic, but I would like to straighten out the facts.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chocokitty

                            And if you're subject to gout you're supposed to avoid it, darn it. And all collagen in general. But pig ears are so very good, and Mrs. O has taught me to love wing tips, too, so I'll just take my chances.

                          2. I've started eating it after meeting my SO. I'd notice his family would BBQ chicken and they'd clean everything off the bone - esp. with wings, just sucking it all off like a popsicle, then chewing noisly on the cartillage.

                            I was a little put off at first, but I caught on and it really is tasty. Mostly I just found it weird when we'd be out and my SO would be taking my bones and cleaning them off properly ;)

                            1. some japanese places serve cartilage, like the more authentic yakitori places (this one was in honolulu)

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: superunko

                                This is my favorite kind of yakitori...cartilege.

                                The cartilage pictured is from the breast...but I like my knee cart. :)

                                1. re: joonjoon

                                  this reminds me of going to this japanese place in NYC - up a narrow staircase - need to wait on line to get in - and very daringly we ordered what I had read so many recs for - - knee! At least I can say I tried!

                              2. Chicken cartilage is my very favorite, but am fond of cartilage in general. I leave very little by way of carcass. It makes eating fun when you can gnaw on the bones!

                                Does anyone know if this has beneficial effects on the teeth, like when dogs chew on bones?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: moh

                                  In Oriental medicine, chomping on things is supposed to strengthen the Kidneys. That's why some chomping of teeth goes on in some qi gong exercises.

                                2. S U, to anyone else I know, it's disgusting.

                                  I come by my fondness for cartilage from my mother. She and I prefer the bones and ends of bones of chicken and gristle on ham bones and spareribs to the meat itself.

                                  Whenever hubby declares a bone cleaned, I take over. And then demonstrate what 'cleaned' realllly means.

                                  When I was a kid, I used to find pickled pig's ear in the grocery. No more. Now I expect they keep them all for the dog treats. Oh well.

                                  1. Oh no. I cannot stand cartilage, and I can't even watch someone or listen to them eating it. My dad, a child of the war, would always gnaw off whatever was left on the chicken legs, and it made me shudder.

                                    On the other hand, I have no problem crunching down on half of a chicken wing that's been fried to a crisp, and eating it entirely with the bone. In fact, that is just what I am doing tonight -- at the best fried chicken place in town. Yowzah.

                                    1. when jfood started readingthis thread he thought that it would be a fairly consistent no, but live and learn. he never would have expected all of the bone eaters (thank you stephen king). Jfood has never eaten, nor does he plan on eating bone, no way no how. and wrt the cartilage, he is not sure where the crispy fat ends and the cartilage begins so he has probably eaten, unbeknownst to him, some cartilage.

                                      But you all are way more adventurous than jfood, he tips his hat to you. :-))

                                      1. hey does anyone know if eating cartilage is good for arthritis?

                                        1. I used to crunch but after almost choking to death twice (but not on cartilage), I'm just overly careful about the whole chewing thing now. You know what they say about 3 times. I don't have a problem with those around me chomping on cartilage. Growing up my Mom loved cartilage and would always take my bones and do more work on them.

                                          1. We eat dim sum about once a month. My treat is beef tendon stewed in a star anise 'gravy'. Its chewy, its gelatinous, its wonderful.
                                            Being a roundeye, the servers warily hand it over...
                                            Same with the chicken feet or duck feet.
                                            You can also find this tendon in some vietnamese pho.

                                            Oh, the fear factor episode - besides pigs ear, they also had tail, snout, and hock. I felt the same; this ain't no challenge, its a buffet!

                                            Speaking of which, pickled pigs foot has some nice cartilage.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: porker

                                              The best part of making a good soup is picking off the bones after the soup is done. All that succulent carilege mmmm!!!

                                            2. Mmm! Love cartiledge...my american friends find it gross. I love the fried cartiledge in the Japanese restaurant I frequent.

                                              At home, one of my favourite home cooked dishes is chinese stir fry ribs with onions. And my sister and I really like the area right around the bone. mmm.

                                              1. First time last night in eating any kind of cartilage I went to this japanese yakitori place in manhattan called Oh taisho it was like a spice cartilage salad not bad tasting though it did feel weird to me in eating it though very crunchy but good though

                                                1. +1 for the cartilage-eaters/lovers. I find it the biggest shame that people leave knobs and chunks of meat and cartilage from the joints of food. I thought it was maybe an Asian thing?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: janethepain

                                                    I wondered the same thing too! My Asian friends and I can efficiently strip a buffalo wing in one bite (a talent that often garnered equal parts horror and fascination from American witnesses). At first I thought it might be a habit indirectly meant to boost calcium intake, but now I think it might just be an aspect of our respect for the whole animal and consuming it without waste.

                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                      I think it's less about respect and more about being raised to not be repelled by non-muscle meats.

                                                      1. re: Humbucker

                                                        But why isn't it eaten by the western world? It has no offensive taste and it's probably harder to avoid and eat around it than to just eat the cartilage along with the meat. Are other people just taught to avoid it and go for another piece?

                                                  2. i always secretly hope that whatever beef dish my bf orders would have some of the "bad" pieces -- cartilage, connective tissue of some sort, collagen bits, or any particularly chewy parts -- he can't eat them but knows i'm willing to help out (i do feel bad for him since that taints his opinion of the meal and we only do that if eating by ourselves not in any company)

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: olia

                                                      I'm glad I'm not the only one who deliberately leaves the trimmings in the beef stew so that the cartilage and fat can cook down into a wonderful soft melt-in-your-mouth mess, and who cleans the bones of roast chicken after DH has finished with them - he ALWAYS leaves perfectly good meat on them, not to mention that yummy cartilage! Of course I don't gnaw and crunch when guests are around - that would just be plain rude... but when we're alone all bets are off.

                                                      1. re: Kajikit

                                                        I LOVE cartilage, grizzle, sinews, marrow. Dh finds this primative, the idea of eating off a bone, or biting a bone to suck at the marrow. Absolutely disgusted by it. I feel all the odds and ends probably round things off nutritionally but get that other diners may be a tad put off by the pile of half chewed bones on my plate so I try to keep it for solo dinning. Personally I'm put off by how much good nutrition is thrown away when relying on fork and knife alone. In desperation I've turned to making bone broth for the family so they don't lose the nutritional value of what's typically thrown away.

                                                    2. Another vote for cartilage, chicken, beef, pork, any kind. I won't let go of a bone until it's totally cleaned off. On my visit to the original Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City, I ordered the burnt ends and ended up leaving very clean rib bones on my plate. I noticed that the man at the next table left his with plent of meat and all the cartilage on his discarded pile. What a waste! At my house, I'm always cleaning off the bones my kids leave unfnished so as not to waste all the best parts.

                                                      1. I love it when we revive old threads. ;)

                                                        Asian-American here. And yes, the cartilage is, for me, one of the best parts. I love the knobs of poultry, the bits at the ends of ribs, anything with that great crunch.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: PegS

                                                          Mmmm...cartilage! I grew up eating the stuff - my mom and I used to fight over chicken breastbones and the bits of marrow and stuff hanging around on porkchop and steak bones. I always strip the deli roast chickens in our house, eating all the good parts (cartilage, pope's nose, skin) because my husband throws it all away when he gets to the chicken first. But...he's learned to appreciate some of these things and leaves his bones much cleaner than he used to. I still get the cartilage though.

                                                          Polish-American, btw.

                                                        2. I remember being a kid and my dad telling a story. Through work, he was showing a visiting technician around. He was from Africa, but where exactly, I don't know (this was perhaps 35 years ago and my father has since passed).
                                                          They ate at a famous chicken rotisserie in Montreal. The guy from Africa had ordered a half chicken, as did my dad. The visitor, however, ate the WHOLE thing, crunching and eating the bones as well.

                                                          Although I recall the story occasionally, I never gave it much thought.
                                                          I mean I love most things cartilage and tendon-like. I have eaten the knuckle end of a drumstick bone, but I wouldn't necessarily eat all the bones of a chicken.
                                                          But then again, I did eat all the bones of a fish. They were deep fried, chinese style to a crisp, specifically meant to be eaten.

                                                          Can anyone shed light on this? Could eating chicken bones be a cultural taste, or perhaps more of a personal inclination?

                                                          1. Love them and the textural factor they add to a dish. I dice some up after grilling chicken marinated in some soy sauce + kalamansi/vinegar + chili, then pan fry it with the diced chicken fillets for a mean and crunchy chicken sisig.

                                                            And those bits around pork ribs...mmmm.

                                                            1. so - nobody actually answered the question about whether or not eating/chewing/ingesting beef/pork/chicken cartilage is actually good for us. I, personally, LOVE IT - and save every morsel to add to my bone collection - for future soup use. Cartilage (and gristle [sp?[) makes the best soup base; and when boiled down, creates a substantial thickness to your basic soup broth. In the event that one cannot wait fo the broth to cook down completely, it is not beneath the realm of possibility that one (including yours truly) makes all of the leftover cartilage completely disappear, thus relieving any and all adversity to said substance become a leftover on one's napkin. I look forward to ingesting all and any cartilage, marrow & gristle into my 130 lb frame. The question remains - is this all good for you? - or are we contributing to our own demise? I can assure you - we (5 in all) all ate our mom's soup (from bones & cartilage, gizzards, intestinal fusilage, hearts, internal organs, liver, etc) and have never had a broken bone (made it to 50! thusfar). Does it help our structure, or is more unexpected diagnoses coming into play in the future? I'll keep wondering until Dr. Sanjay Gupta covers this topic on CNN.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: chichijunk

                                                                I don't recall that anybody asked that question...not that I care. I said it before, and I'll say it again: I love cartilage.

                                                                1. re: chichijunk

                                                                  I don't have any specific studies to prove it but I would imagine that cartilage is good for a varied diet. Since it is made of different materials than muscle I would imagine that it is good for the body. I could be completely wrong here.

                                                                  Shrimp shells are one of the only natural sources of glucosamine which is good for our cartilage. While chicken or beef cartilage is different it might have a similar value. I always thought this is why stock is so nutritious from all the dissolved cartilage and bone matter.

                                                                  For me I will believe this because it gives me an excuse to gnaw my bones. When I eat wings with my friends, mine look like they have been bleaching in the desert while theres have big meaty chunks on the end. I lik eto eat all of the cartilage between the two wing bones. Man thats good.

                                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                                    Thats one of my peeves - people leaving perfectly good gristle on their wings. My buddy's reasoning is that since he bought them, he can eat them the way he wants...

                                                                  2. re: chichijunk

                                                                    Cartilage is the source of chondroitin, which is included in over-the-counter "joint health" food supplements. I take such a supplement daily, which also includes glucosamine (from shrimp shells) and MSM. There is apparently some evidence that these supplements benefit people who have arthritis, though not much evidence that it strengthens joints in otherwise healthy people.
                                                                    I also enjoy chewing cartilage and tendon, bone ends, pig and chicken feet, pig's ears etc. (when cooked).

                                                                    1. Someone did mention Pickled Pig's Feet.. Here's a great recipe - quick & easy to do, but does require stove time - you can accomplish alot in the meantime:
                                                                      Wash & scrub fresh pig's feet (very inexpensive) in cold water for mere moments in kitchen sink. Place in large pot and cover completely with salted water. Add a couple of smoked ham hocks. Add a few teaspoons of fresh chopped garlic & cracked black pepper and whole peppercorns. Simmer for several hours (at least 4 - 6 hours) LOW HEAT, covered, until all meat falls off of the bones. Check occasionally and add water if liquid level dissapates below level of solids.
                                                                      Pour entire mixture into shallow bowls (large or small), including some knuckle bones (discard bones that have nothing on them anymore, but leave all bones that have cartilage, meat, sinew, etc) and arrange evenly. Chill in refrigerator until broth and mixture is solid to touch (couple of hours, or overnight).
                                                                      Slice with knife, and spatula onto plate. Pour either fresh lemon juice, or malt vinegar to taste and fresh cracked sea salt on top and enjoy! It's gelatinous (like a meat jello - with plenty of bones to gnaw on as well)..
                                                                      This is a fresh, chilled treat that is great in the summer on a hot day - or whenever the mood for something exceptional is called for - This is a rare treat - and is most enjoyed when you have it all to yourself (I appreciate the effort to make it more and find it acceptable NOT to share it with people that are afraid to try it and find it OK NOT TO share it with anyone that doesn't appreciate how to live and live well).

                                                                      Hungarian recipe passed down from generation to generation. Occasionally, you will run into someone who has heard of "Kocsonja" - pronounced Koo (as in book) choo (as in book) nyah (same sound and "the"). Koochoonyuh. Hungarian. Me. 100%. Period.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: chichijunk

                                                                        My Italian friend would call this "gelatina". We put white vinegar into the cooling liquid to taste, sometimes adding chunks of cooked pigs tongue.
                                                                        I also like to cure the feet first - gives great color and nice taste as well.

                                                                        Speaking of which, I wanted to make a beef broth for a Sunday pho. Looked in the freezer yesterday and pulled out some short ribs and veal feet. Boiled down for a couple of hours, strained (shredded the meat and removed the bones from the feet, leaving the unctuous tendon), and put in fridge.
                                                                        I was showing the wife this morning - I turned the container completely upside down, the broth had completely gelled. Cow foot provides plenty of gelatin too!

                                                                      2. Chicken cartilage, in my view, is actually needed in the human body to replenish joint ligaments. In particular, the knee joint as the most complex joint in our body needs lubrication and ligament renewal from the inside out.

                                                                        Time and time again, I am perplexed that people either did not know, and if they have come to know about the fact our body does not produce cartilage and it is needed to be taken in from chicken drum sticks and chicken wing joints, they still do not eat it because it is 'crunchy' and yeeiks - no way. My suggestion is to collect it from the bones and joints, the cartilage is that white stuff, then prepare mashed potatoes and put them in the blender with the cartilage - you wont even know you ate it. And at more advanced age, you have a good chance of not undergoing knee surgery - Just my humble opinion.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Bcchowhound

                                                                          I dunno, been eating gristle, especially chicken gristle (drumstick ends, wing tips, cartilage from breast bone, etc) all my life...they had to cut out part of my miniscus last year...

                                                                          1. re: Bcchowhound

                                                                            Could you provide a reputable citation for that please? I did a quick search and couldn't find anything.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              Its in the first line of the post: "...in my view..."

                                                                              1. re: porker

                                                                                This sounds like it's scientific/medical fact since s/he is perplexed that people don't know this:

                                                                                "Time and time again, I am perplexed that people either did not know, and if they have come to know about the fact our body does not produce cartilage and it is needed to be taken in from chicken drum sticks and chicken wing joints, they still do not eat it...."

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  I'm pretty sure our body can produce cartilage. Babies are born with tons of it and they don't eat chicken wing joints in the womb.

                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    Like everything else, they scavenge from their moms bodies. It's very common to have joint and skin problems from preg. I was a veg and had bad joint probs with both babies. It took over a year to walk after my daughter and I was a vegan when I got preg with her.

                                                                                    But when it comes down to it like everything else if you don't want it don't eat it. I LIKE to crunch chicken bones. And I LIKE to make soups from bone/cartilege stock. Most meat has some connective tissue, I like the parts that have more.

                                                                                    And yes, to the poster below- people ate most ofal. Pork rinds are hugely popular even today. It's the skin leftover when rendering subcutaneous fat for lard. (I'm not a fan of pork but many people are)

                                                                                    1. re: Renee2

                                                                                      Uh...still not sure of this. Joint problems in pregnancy are due to progesterone.

                                                                          2. Haha, this whole (old) thread reminds me of "Life of Brian" with Graham Chapman as Brian working as a hawker of snacks during the "games" at the colosseum:

                                                                            "Lark's tongues! Wren's livers! Chaffinch's brains! Jaguar's earlobes! Wolves' nibble chips!
                                                                            Get them while they're off, they're lovely. Dromedary pretzel verily after dinner! Tuscany fried bats!"