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Aug 25, 2007 09:09 PM

Eating eyeballs

Do you eat eyeballs?

Which eyeballs do you eat?

How do you eat them eyeballs?

The other night, while having dinner with my family, my uncle was the "lucky" one to clean out the fish head from the steamed fish we had ordered.

As I watched him work his magic with the fish head, sucking out all the juices and meat from the nooks and cranny, I took special note of the eyeballs.

He sucked them out right from the sockets with nary a thought.

Nothing unusual about that, happens all the time when you eat the fish head.

But it got me thinking, what other types of eyeballs do people eat?

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  1. Bourdain ate the raw eyeball of a seal in the Quebec episode of "No Reservations". (Though my favorite is still the beating heart of a cobra in moonshine.)

    1. A Hungarian man I used to work with told us how they'd bring a lamb's head into the brewery where he worked (in NYC in the olden days) and they'd all fight over the eyeballs since there were only two. Apparently the eyeballs went well with the beer that was on tap at all times in the lunch room. They had horses then so I guess drunk driving wasn't a problem!
      Can't say I've had the pleasure however.

      1. Ipse, in case you haven't seen it, check out Eddie Lin's blog, "Deepend Dining." He recently did a writeup, "iTaco." He also was a guest on KCRW's, "Good Food," talking about the same subject. That Eddie-guy has big cahones - and I'm sure he's eaten those too...

        1. I've done my own little Fear Factor episode at home where I ate an entire lambs head. Tongue, cheeks, brains, eyeballs -- the whole deal. Consuming the eyeballs was tough. The brain was the toughest though IMO. The cheeks and tongue are absolutely delicious. I've watched family members thoroughly enjoy eating lamb heads and finally decided to give it a try several years ago. Like I said, the cheeks and tongue are the best part. The eyeballs? - Definitely not for the squeamish. (There's a lot attached to the *back* of the eyeball - nerves, muscles, etc).

          2 Replies
          1. re: Cheese Boy

            Can I ask how you ate the eyeballs?

            Boiled? Braised? Fried? Baked?

            I'm thinking deep-fried might be the best way to go. Tempura eyeballs or maybe eyeball fritters ...

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Actually, it starts out being baked. There's some liquid in the roasting pan, but not enough to qualify for a braise. During the last few minutes in the oven - it's allowed to roast. The meat is well browned and very tender. The eyeballs wind up taking on a very unique consistency, one I'm having a bit of difficulty trying to describe. I wanted to say marshmallow fluff - but that's somewhat inaccurate and incomplete. They are chewy yet soft at the same time. Try to envision marshmallow fluff and shoestring licorice perhaps (without the sugary taste, of course). That type of consistency.

          2. This past Chinese New Year, I tried the Lambs' Eye Balls at a restaurant in Flushing, Queens (NYC) called A Fan Ti. They serve them up there in a dark brown sauce. I don't know why this surprised me, but they are immediately recognizable as eyeballs, pupils and all, lying there in the sauce. The innards, looking like sinewy tentacles, were attached at the stems. The eyeballs themselves tasted quite fatty, not bad at all actually, and had a chewy consistency somewhere between pure fat and squid, with the innards feeling more like, well, octopus. One thing I discovered about Lambs' Eyeballs that doesn't hold true for most of the Chinese cuisine I've tried: it doesn't survive the take-home test. Within an hour of my ordering it, I brought some home for my wife to try. By that time, the eyeballs had hardened considerably, and tasted a few days old.

            There's a lesson in there somewhere, not quite sure what.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Polecat

              "There's a lesson in there somewhere, not quite sure what."

              Maybe the lesson is ... "You can take the eyeballs out of the lamb, but you can't take the eyeballs out of the restaurant"?

              Thanks for the report. Good to know next time I'm confronted with the tricky question of whether to doggy-bag my leftover lamb eyeballs ...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Yes, a conundrum indeed. They are very filling. Unless you have a gargantuan appetite, a plate of 8 of them - assuming you've ordered other dishes - might be more than one person can handle. Robert Sietsema, the food critic for the Village Voice, brought Dr. John - the legendary, and hefty, New Orleans Gris Gris guru - with him when he went; they shared a plate.

                So, maybe there's another lesson there: never eat eyeballs alone.

              2. re: Polecat

                In the late 40's, my uncle worked in Saudi Arabia, where he became friends with several sheiks, and was a frequent guest. Back then (post World War II), many sheiks still lived in elaborate tents with dozens of incredible carpets for a floor. Anyway, as guest of honor, he was frequently served a small dish filled with raw sheep's eyeballs at the beginning of a feast. He said the trick was to try to swallow them whole, but if you did chew them, they were sort of like a huge caviar egg with gooey stuff inside. I don't think I could have handled it.