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Please help me identify this offal stuff...

At a dim sum place today, our table was offered "beef tripe." What we got a big steaming bowl of stew filled with chunks of turnip and assorted innards. I recognized a couple of different kinds of tripe, intestine, liver, heart, and tendon. All good in my book. But there was one type of meat that everybody at the table hated. Even me, and I like everything.

The piece I had was maybe an inch and a half by half an inch, sliced a quarter inch thick or so. Three sides had a smooth, extremely chewy membrane that was maybe an eighth of an inch thick. The inside was dark - almost black - and kind of fell apart as it was chewed, leaving a very grainy texture. The flavor was distinctly unpleasant - a big hit of cooked blood combined with a very strong organ meat taste.

After one bite, I picked around the stuff for the rest of the meal. Can anybody tell me what this stuff is so that I can avoid it in the future? Or maybe suggest a preparation that isn't so terrible? Thanks!

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  1. I'm guessing, but it might be the bottom of the stomach, with semi digested food. Or any of the cow's other stomachs. I wouldn't be too alarmed given the vegetarian diet of the cow..

    1 Reply
    1. re: jayt90

      Could have been lung.

    2. Could it have been gallbladder?
      I'm not a big fan of gallbladder, but I like the flavor it adds to soups and stews.

      1. I believe you're refering to spleen. That's why it has that bloody taste.

        11 Replies
        1. re: huaqiao

          ding ding ding. We always order what you had at dimsum, I like the tripe my parents eat the rest.

          1. re: huaqiao

            I think that's gotta be it. A little internet searching indicates that the spleen is surrounded by a tough capsule (hence the chewiness), with insides that are friable (hence the falling-apart graininess), and vascular (hence the blood flavor). Don't know why, but I always assumed it would taste more like sweetbreads, which I love.

            Not that I'm going to search out spleen dishes in the near future, but does anybody know of a way of preparing it so that it's not so, um, nasty?

            1. re: huaqiao

              The first time I had this I was told that it was lung but I knew from my research into making haggis from the pluck that the USDA doesn't allow the sale of lung for human consumption. I suspect that spleen has a similar taste and texture since its job is to oxygenate blood. Has anyone ever eaten lung?

              I'm intrigued by the version that alanbarnes had; the versions of mixed beef that I've seen don't include intestines or heart.

              1. re: PorkButt

                I thought of lung as an option, too, but would it be that bloody or have the chewy outer capsule? Sam Fujisaka's posted that he uses smoked lung in some dishes- maybe he can chime in.

                The heart is just an educated guess. Firm, lean, steak-like, maybe a little on the dry side. Not my favorite prep for the meat, but it was still good. The intestine, though, I'm pretty sure of. Unless there's something else that's long, tubular, and chewy.

                The restaurant was New Canton in Sacramento. Asian Pearl in Fremont is owned by the same folks. No guarantee that they have the same dish, let alone use the same recipe, but FWIW...

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Interesting, I'm probably going to the Asian Pearl in Richmond for lunch tomorrow though I'm sure my dining companions wouldn't touch this dish. Maybe I'll give it a try, but I just don't like the texture of spleen and hate wasting food.

                  1. re: PorkButt

                    The vast majority of the stuff in the dish was delicious, and the percentage I found unpalatable was very small. Although wasting food is a bad thing in general, I could live with myself if I ordered it again and left those bits behind.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      I ordered the stewed beef organs and all I got were flat tripe, honeycomb tripe, and tendons. Pretty good, but I'll have to go elsewhere to face up to spleen again.

                  2. re: alanbarnes

                    "Sam Fujisaka's posted that he uses smoked lung in some dishes"
                    ~~~~~~~~~~
                    Would that be smoked with Marlboros or Camels?

                    (Sorry, I just couldn't stop myself.)

                  3. re: PorkButt

                    P Butt, in Norway they sell ground beef lung packed in big plastic tubes, 500 g, and call it Lungemost. I'll take lutefisk any day.

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      I found this version made with beef, pork, lungs, and hearts:
                      http://www.gilde.no/produktoversikt/v...

                      It actually doesn't sound too bad, kind of like a cousin of haggis without grain. From your original description, it sounded like something to make a lungburger with.

                    2. re: PorkButt

                      Lung's not being legal doesn't mean it isn't sold. Inspectors busted a market not far from me for selling lung as various cuts not too long ago.

                      That being said, I'm with the others here that alanbarnes' cut sounds like spleen -- something I can't eat either. That and what my favorite Vietnamese place calls "internal crab." Too much for me -- and I'll go for just about anything.

                  4. Alanbarnes, your description of this meat is very suggestive of spleen. The outside part of the spleen is very chewy, and there is a lot of congealed blood flavour to this meat. It reminds me of hard-core liver, and it can have a very strong organ meat taste, with the grainy texture as you describe.

                    I must say that I quite like spleen. When I have had it, it has ben prepared in a Korean style. It will be seasoned with Korean spices (including the ubiquitous sesame seed and oil), and then pan-fried. It is served with a sesame seed based dipping salt. Sometimes, it is seasoned and served raw.

                    It is a bit hard-core, not to everyone's taste. But in Korea, it is served as a medicinal dish, especially good for those who need iron.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: moh

                      Good call. I'm almost certain that what Alan described is spleen, too. It does take getting used to, but it tastes good to me, probably because I need the iron.

                      1. re: cimui

                        I haven't had spleen in a long time. I haven't really seen it in the stores, although I look. In Winnipeg, when I was younger, I recall my parents going directly to the slaughterhouses to order spleen, as it was never sold in grocery stores. They'd order a huge amount, and share it with people in the community. We'd have this big spleen party, Mum would cook up large quantities, and people would drop by to eat spleen and pick up a chunk of raw spleen. It made sense, the slaughterhouse weren't about to sell the stuff in small quantities, so you had to buy in bulk.

                        Huh! What a funny memory! Now I am craving spleen.

                        1. re: moh

                          That is a cool memory! I wonder if they have ready-made E-vite invitations for spleen parties.

                          Will definitely have to try a Korean prep, since don't think I've ever met a dish involving sesame and oil I didn't like. I've only had spleen in soups (German and Filipino), so far.