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Dec 30, 2011 03:56 PM

Pigs brain in stir fry in Asia???

Today I happened upon this article about Hormel on Mother Jones. It is a long but worthwhile read, infuriatingly disturbing on many levels, and highly condemnatory of industrially produced food products.

But that is not why I am posting.

Early in the article, it mentions that the offending liquified pig brains are used as such:

"When the 10-pound barrel was filled, another worker would come to take the brains for shipping to Asia, where they are used as a thickener in stir-fry. "

The hyperlink on 'thickener in stir-fry' just leads to an article affirming that it is safe to eat fully cooked pig brains.

I have heard of corn, potato, and lotus root starch as thickeners in stir fry. Never pigs brains. Asia is a big place...does anyone know which country is likely to be buying this industrial pig brain waste and having it shipped in for use in stir fries? How is it used as a thickener?

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  1. I have never used it as a thickener in stir-fry. I ate it as whole, not as mushed up paste. You are Asian too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Yep I have heard of people eating brains, goat, lamb, pig, cow, or what have you. I love sucking the brain from shrimp and crawfish, though I am not a mammal brain fan, myself. It is not the brain that I have an issue with here, just the idea of exporting the liquified brain as some sort of thickener in some unnamed country in Asia.

    2. Filipino cooking uses liver to thicken stews and sauces, but not for stir fry (though there is a stir fry sauce made from shrimp heads). But even with their legendary love of the pig, I cannot imagine Filipinos using what amounts to liquified cholesterol to thicken stir fries.

      Btw, Fatima, I visited home for the holidays: lunch with my father and then a separate Filipino dinner. You came up in conversation and Dad was quite entertained to hear that I had a Fatima Aunty teaching me all those cultural things I would have known had he taken me back to South Asia. And although I was speaking Tagalog to his new wife, he was smiling as I used my newfound knowledge to hold forth on kormas and poke fun of us for having our sole veg come from bhajji or eggrolls because the boys were home. I think your lessons are going to get me out of many an awkward family dinner in the future.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JungMann

        Glad to hear you had an enjoyable holiday with your family. That's very interesting about the liver as a thickening agent. Mmmh, shrimp head sauce!

      2. I'm sorry, I just don't have the attention span for this article, but I'd like to know what it's saying. What exactly is happening with the pig brains? I enjoy brains and wouldn't mind it in my stir fry. Sounds delicious.

        3 Replies
        1. re: joonjoon

          I agree...I've never had them used this way, but I imagine that it would do the job as well as adding a bit of extra flavor.
          I'm guessing that the stuff wouldn't be used in a great quantity to 'thicken', since most authentic Asian dishes don't seem to be thickened to the level of typical Chinese food in the US.

          I'd be curious to know specifically how it is prepared and used, and at what point it is added.

          1. re: The Professor

            I have a lot of friends of Asian origin and I asked a couple who are of particularly pork-loving ethnic backgrounds. No one had heard of it either. I suspect the author may have been told that and put it in the article but actually the pig brain liquid is shipped to some place in Asia for other culinary use. I was thinking maybe it is used as some kind of binder in some sort of industrially produced food item.

          2. re: joonjoon

            Hmmm, employees at the pork processing plant who worked at the 'head table' became ill. They inhaled large amounts of liquified pork brain mist at the table during the course of their day, and their bodies produced anti-bodies to attack the foreign porcine particles, but since pigs and humans are so similar, their anti-bodies started attacking their own bodies because their immune system could not tell the difference between pig and human.