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Haggis vs. Tofu: Mano a Mano!

I've had a recurring dream for the past couple of weeks. Or rather, it's more like a mantra that won't leave me. In the small morning hours, half asleep, half awake, I hear the question and I don't know why. So I'm posting it to chowhound in hopes of exorcising it from my mind. It goes like this: I'm being exiled to a desert island and I can choose only one food. The choice is haggis or tofu. WWYD? (What Would You Do?) Why?

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  1. How about steaming a mixture of oats and tofu in a pouch made from yuba (tofu skin)?

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      That sounds great! Maybe some lentils in there too for more texture? I love love love yuba....

    2. Haggis, no question. Tofu is what remains after real food is sucked into a black hole.

      1. Only one true answer and that is tofaggis. I made it once. I couldn't bring myself to make it traditionally though, so it was not really haggis-like.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kolgrim

          Tofaggis! Brilliant! I'm inspired to dust of my Burns and rewrite his famous poem as an ode to tofaggis.

            1. re: purple goddess

              Haggis for survival reasons, it has a greater variety of ingredients (however nasty they may be) and thus a greater range of nutrients than tofu.

              1. re: purple goddess

                I'm with you, Haggis gets my gag reflex going more than almost any food. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water and the little hairs on the back of neck stand up....not in a good way.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I love this answer. Though I would personally pick the tofu.

                  1. re: piccola

                    Yo tambien. The thought of eating tofu for eternity isn't exactly like dying and going to heaven but it sure beats the thought of eating nothing but haggis for all eternity.

                2. Haggis is like a cross between sausage and steamed pudding. mmmmmm, delicious meat pudding.

                  However I protest the vagueness of this question: Are we talking a deliciously spiced chieftain o' the puddin-race and a square block of tofu in that water that it comes in, or a nasty chip-shop haggis and some sort of firm, dressed-up tofu product meal? I would venture that the best Haggis would surpass the best tofu in its naked state, but I have had some damn good doctored-up tofu experiences in my lifetime. So please, for the sake of scietific accuracy, clarify!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Lemon Curry

                    sorry.. no such thing as "deliciously spiced cheiftain-o' the puddin-race, however Burnsian you wanna get.

                    I have had haggis served at Gleneagles Castle, complete with whiskey creme, neeps and tatties and it was vile.. VILE, I tell you.. completely inedible!!!

                    I'd rather dive head first into a vat full of somebody else's cold vomit, than ever touch the stuff again!!!

                    1. re: purple goddess

                      No accounting for taste, or lack of same. I know of perfectly reasonable people who can't stand Mozart, too. As for haggis, I will admit I have yet to try it, but I see no way I could find it less than delicious, as I love everything that goes into it...and I remember my first taste of scrapple, in the company of several other kids who were having their first taste as well. Not only did I adore it, I got to eat my fill of it, since most of the others took one bite and started making barfing noises. Couldn't let it go to waste...

                      1. re: purple goddess

                        Yikes, now that's some serious vitriol. As a Scotsman three generations removed from the homeland I still feel a wee bit responsible for your bad haggis day and on behalf of the better half of that big island, I apologize.

                      2. re: Lemon Curry

                        I left the question vague on purpose so that each person could define their own parameters. By all means, choose top shelf haggis and tofu. After all, it will be the last food you ever eat on that desert island!

                        1. re: taco clandestino

                          I want to start by saying I am a huge haggis fan. But I would chose tofu because it is much more versatile. I agree with Lemon Curry, the question is vague. There are just so many tofu dishes, but are you allowing us to have the ingredients too? For example, mapo tofu has pork in it, so techinically it is not just tofu. But if you exclude ingredients such as pork, you can't fairly compare haggis (a fully-formed dish) to tofu (an ingredient).

                      3. Haggis. Even on a desert island a man needs his fiber.

                        Now, if you were stranded on a dessert island...

                        1 Reply
                        1. So haggis is basically an overstuffed sausage, and tofu is not. So definately the haggis

                          1. Haggis. Haggis is delicious. They are both delicious. I would pick Haggis for nutritional reasons.

                            I would get tired of both after a while, though. Hopefully, I would find some interesting native foods after a few days.

                            1. I think that most omnivores, in a blind tasting, and without foreknowledge of the offal contents, would like haggis. Often it's not good because there is too much oat, or it's not properly spiced. A well made haggis is a thing of beauty, rich, flavourful, earthy, complex. As a personal thing, I don't like whisky with it.... a nice, juicy shiraz or merlot is the thing.

                              As for tofu, it's not a dish in itself, so the contest is a bit unfair. frankly, I think that it's over used. Not interested in it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                After the first time I had haggis, I wanted to have it again - not vile at all. Actually found it to be like a highly spiced hash. I just don't understand the "vile". I've eaten spleen on its own. Now that's vile.

                                Tofu? Other than a couple of Asian dishes, I see no reason to go near it.

                                Of course, if we're dealing with a desert island with no refrigeration for either, you're gonna die anyway. So enjoy the haggis while it's still fresh.

                              2. My friend, Mark the Butcher (who also helped make that delicious headcheese), and I are currently in the market for a lamb, ewe, or ram. Luckily we live in the countryside and have a good friend who has his finger on the pulse of the sheep scene locally, being an ex-shearer. When we get our beastie, we endeavor to make the best artisan, single-batch, haggis in the west. We will keep all of you informed as to our progress and may even post some pics and a short film.

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: taco clandestino

                                  You MUST make that film! That would be fantastic. Perfect thing for the Hot Docs festival here in Toronto, and it would be a great improvement to that dog and pony show called Food Network... a real bit of food life!

                                  1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                    It's all about process, and good eats. I've never had haggis but am willing to try it. It sounds right up my alley. Being of Estonian descent blood sausage and head cheese are chow I always look forward to. Is there a a reliable recipe for making haggis or is it too time consuming and/or are some of the key ingredients difficult to readily find (I presently live in Toronto)?

                                    1. re: mrbozo

                                      It is time-consuming, and some of the ingredients will have to be ordered from your butcher (most, for example, don't carry lamb liver and lung in the display case!). There is one place (I think that it might actually be a bakery) which supplies most of the ready-made haggis to butchers in the GTA, but I can't recall the name. I'll try to find out for you. Anyway, you might want to try ordering a small one (a little goes a long way, because it is rather rich) from your butcher first, and then try making your own.

                                      1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                        I am not sure why but there is a federal law that prohibits the sale of lungs in the US, Canada may not have a law like that. Depending on where you are you may be able to get some info at a local farmers market or from your butcher. Anyway everything else can be obtained at the grocery store. Also if you do a google search for haggis many recipes will come up I even saw a recipe for veggie haggis. is that an oxymoron?????

                                        1. re: mark the butcher

                                          Thanks for the info, guys. I guess it would be best for me to try a well-made haggis before I tackle the making of it. What should I look for in a good haggis in terms of ingredients. seasoning, and texture? Or is this dish very much open to a wide range of acceptable interpretations?

                                          BTW, can tofu be incorporated into haggis without disrupting the balance of things?

                                          1. re: mrbozo

                                            Mrbozo, your interest in haggis is truly gratifying.

                                            Why would you want to include tofu? It's so neutral in flavour, that its only role would be as filler, and that is performed by the oats, which are more absorbant than tofu. I'm not clear what you'd be trying to accomplish. Were I you, I'd make a traditionall haggis a few times successfully before I'd start futzing about with the basic composition.

                                            A well-crafted haggis is never dry, meally, or bland. Ideally, the texture is moist without being damp, packed similarly to loose meatloaf. The principal seasoning is black pepper, and the flavour of a haggis should be a little sharp from it, but too often the pepper is overplayed in attempt to conceal the offal flavours, and this is a mistake. The earthiness of the offal should be allowed to come through. A lot of recipes include things like allspice and mace, and these are good ideas when applied by a judicious hand. There isn't a lot of variation in the basic ingedients of a traditional haggis. The individual component is basically in the seasoning. That said, I once saw a recipe for "American haggis" that included no offal. But then, that's not a haggis.

                                      2. re: mrbozo

                                        mrbozo, do you have any Estonian recipes for blood sausage or anything else? Mark the Butcher and I plan to get down and dirty and make many things beginning with the live animals and using everything. We are collecting recipes from around the world for any recipe that uses animal parts, the stranger the better.

                                        1. re: taco clandestino

                                          Do you have a copy of 'Unmentionable Cuisine'? (U Virginia Press, Shwabe, 1979). It covers a wide range of animals and parts that someone or other considers taboo or unmentionable.

                                          On the subject of haggis, it has a number of recipes for stuffed stomach. Of course there is the sheeps stomach stuffed with its liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. But there is also an English version stuffed with bread crumbs and fat, an Irish one using a pig's stomach and mashed potatoes, and a Hungarian sausage using the pig's stomach as casing.


                                          1. re: paulj

                                            I wouldn't call those other versions haggis. The use of a stomach doesn't make the dish a haggis, as such, any more than the use of pig intestines is one particular variety of sausage. "Haggis" is merely a species of the genus "boiled pudding".The English and Irish versions are similar to what in Scotland and England (I don't know about Ireland) is called white pudding. Tell a Sassanach that his dish is a haggis, and your lunch might be a knuckle sandwich.

                                            In addition to Unmentionable Cuisine, I'd mention Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating as being of interest. He has St John Bar and Restaurant, appropraitely, hard by Smithfield Market in London.

                                            Taco, I think that your and Mark's project is thrilling. Dig in!

                                          2. re: taco clandestino

                                            This is the recipe that hits the mark for Estonian blood sausage (verivorst):

                                            1lb pearl barley
                                            1lb streaky bacon
                                            .5lb minced onions
                                            1 quart fresh pig's blood
                                            Salt, pepper and marjoram as seasonings
                                            About 1lb pig's intestines or casings
                                            Allspice for boiling sausages

                                            - Boil washed barley in salted water until al dente and set aside.
                                            - Cut bacon into small pieces and fry with minced onion until the onion is soft.
                                            - Add the bacon and onion to the barley and boil until the mixture is soft.
                                            - Take the mixture off heat and let cool.
                                            - Add blood.and seasonings.
                                            - Fill the intestines/casings with the mixture but do not pack because the blood and the barley will swell when the sausages are boiled.
                                            - Tie the ends of the sausages with string.
                                            - Put the sausages into lukewarm water seasoned with allspice and boil them slowly for about 30 minutes.
                                            - Cool the sausages in the fridge..
                                            - Bake (350 F) or fry the sausages before serving. The skins should be black and crispy. Should they split slightly don't panic.
                                            - Serve with cranberry relish. Boiled potatoes, and sauerkraut pan-braised in lard or bacon drippings and sprinkled with caraway seeds, are traditional accompaniments.

                                            1. re: mrbozo

                                              Thanks so much for the recipe. Mark the Butcher and I will be getting our pigs within the week, as soon as I fix up the pen a bit. My mouth is watering.

                                        2. re: hungry_pangolin

                                          hungry_pangolin, the Hot Docs festival sounds cool. I have made a 3 minute film on making headcheese. I need to tighten it up a bit, then I will release it on YouTube I suppose. Apple's iLife software makes it easy for slackers like me to create pretty nifty movies. Mark the Butcher and I hope to make a suite of films documenting our meat projects.

                                          1. re: taco clandestino

                                            I have had haggis a few times with neeps, bashed tatties and of course Scotch. Absolutely fab every time I have had it. However, I quite like tofu but to me this is an apples and oranges conversation.

                                            1. re: smartie

                                              Hi Smartie, you're right, the original thrust of the thread has shifted mostly to haggis, which is fine with me. The spirit of my lead-in was not to compare tofu to haggis (see first post above), but to address a recurring dream I had. The dream has stopped, which I am thankful for, as recurring dreams can be tiresome, especially on a subject such as desert islands, haggis and tofu. On the very bright side, look what this thread has netted us. A very lovely recipe for Estonian blood sausage.

                                      3. Haggis, definitely. Much more flavorful, and it probably would provide more nutrition than tofu.

                                        1. I had to look up what haggis is, since I had no idea what it was. Since I don't eat meat, the choice is a no-brainer: tofu. (Though hypothetically, I am allowed to bring other seasonings/foods to make a variety of tofu dishes, right? B/c eating tofu plain as just a block would be incredibly boring, so if it really were just a hunk of tofu I was allowed, I'd boycott the exile.)

                                          1. It's nice to see so many haggis fans. On my first trip to Scotland my travel companion and I spent several days working up the courage to try haggis and only did on our last dinner there. Too bad! It was EXCELLENT - we were both bummed that we wasted so much time there before trying it. I have to agree with Sam, though, I could go either way - they are both great foods.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: akq

                                              you know they take Americans haggis hunting in Scotland!! (course they can't catch them cos they never spot them!)

                                              1. re: smartie

                                                Here in the U.S. it's called a snipe hunt. :-)

                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                  Snipe hunting is fun, especially here in AZ.

                                            2. I have heard so many haggis horror stories from Americans that I always assumed it MUST be some ghastly dish... but I must admit with all the descriptions provided it sounds very compelling... and I think back to all the Americans I know that have a hard time with such delicacies as dark meat chicken over breast (yeah that one is too funny), blood sausage, head cheese... and I know its not haggis that is the problem its the lame food culture in this country.... I am now fully excited about haggis & my ears are perked up for any possible haggis encounters.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                Eat Nopal, one of the proudest moments I've entered into my own archive was when we were going to have boudin noir for our last meal in France, and the family asked me, the non-Francophone novice who had never tasted this sausage, to choose which side dish we should have with it: purée de pommes de terre or choucroute. Without hesitation I replied, "Both", knowing from experience that any sausage which begs for one begs for the other as well. They were surprised, but they complied, and complimented me at the meal at this "novelty" that was simply the product of my German-American-Midwestern upbringing. Any damn fool knows you need sauerkraut AND mashed 'taters with a sausage...

                                                Oh, the topic - haggis, in a minute!

                                              2. I have had tofu lots of times and haggis only once. And I would have to pick the haggis. It was on the breakfast buffet at the Marriott in Edinburgh. Made me wish I hadn't turned my nose up at it at all those Burns' dinner I served at when I was young.

                                                1. Haggis. Love it. Americans are funny.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: haggisdragon

                                                    Why? Because many of us like haggis? Strange you think so with a name like yours.

                                                  2. Any specific kind of tofu? (There's probably tens of varieties.)