Offal - Asia - East Asia

East Asia

In China, many organs and animal-parts are used for food or traditional Chinese medicine. Since pork is the most consumed meat in China, popular pork offal dishes include stir-fried pork kidneys with oyster sauce, ginger and scallions, "五更肠旺 - Wu Geng Chang Wang" a spicy stew with preserved mustard, tofu, pork intestine slices and congealed pork blood cubes. "炸肥肠 - Zha Fei Chang," deep fried pork intestine slices and dipped in a sweet bean sauce is commonly offered by street hawkers. Pork tongue slices with salt and sesame oil is also a popular dish, especially in Sichuan province. Braised pork ear strips in soy sauce, five-spice powder and sugar is a common "cold plate" appetizer available as hawker food or in major local supermarkets. Stir-fried pork kidneys and/or liver slices with oyster sauce, ginger and scallions or in soups is a regular dish in southern provinces. Pork blood soup is at least 1,000 years old since the Northern Song Dynasty, when the quintessential Chinese restaurant and eateries became popular. Pork blood soup and dumplings, jiaozi, were recorded as food for night labourers in Kaifeng. In Shanghai cuisine, the soup has evolved into the well-known “酸辣湯 — Suan La Tang”, Hot and Sour Soup, with various additional ingredients. As well as pork, the offal of other animals is used in traditional Chinese cooking, most commonly cattle, duck, and chicken.

Offal dishes are particularly popular in the southern region of Guangdong and its culinary capital of Hong Kong. For example, Cantonese “燒味 — Siu mei”, (Barbecue Delicacies) shops, have achieved their foundation of influence here. Besides the popular cha siu barbecued pork, "siu yuk" crispy skin pork, along with assorted types of poultry, there are also the roasted chicken liver with honey, and the very traditional, and very expensive now, “金錢雞 — Gum Chin Gai”, another honey roasted dimsum that is a sandwich of a piece each of pork fat, pork/chicken liver, ginger and cha siu.

The use of offal in dim sum does not stop there. In dim sum restaurants, the feet of chicken, ducks and pork are offered in various cooking styles. For example, the pork feet in sweet vinegar stew is a popular bowl now besides its traditional function as supplement for postpartum mother care. Young ginger stems, boiled eggs, and blanched pork feet are stew in sweet black rice vinegar for a few hours to make this “豬腳薑 — Jui Kerk Gieng”. “鴨腳紮 — Ap Kerk Jat” is a piece each of ham, shiitake mushroom and deep fried fish maw wrapped with duck feet in a dried bean curd sheet in and steamed. The use of fish offal in Cantonese cuisine is not limited to the maw. For example, there is the folksy dish of “東江魚雲煲 — Tung Gong Yu Wan Bo”, a casserole with the lips of fresh water large head fish; and shark fin soup.

In the more pragmatic folksy eateries, however, maximum utilization of the food resource is the traditional wisdom. The fish is completely made used and nothing is wasted. Deep fried fish skin is a popular side dish at fish ball noodle shops. The intestines are steamed with egg and other ingredients in Hakka cuisine. Finally, the bones are wrapped in a cotton bag to boil in the soup for noodles.

Chaozhou cuisine shows its best manifestation also in Hong Kong. The goose meat, liver (foie gras), blood, intestine, feet, neck and tongue are all major ingredients to various dishes. There is also the must-try soup, pork stomach with whole pepper corns and pickled mustard.

The use of beef organs is classically represented in noodle shops here. Each respectable operation has its own recipe for preparing the stews of brisket, intestine, lung, and varieties of tripe. The big pots are often placed facing the street and next to the entrance such that the mouth-watering aroma is the best draw for the shop′s business.

Contrary to a common Westerners' disgust for these dishes due to cultural unfamiliarity and sanitary concerns, these offal items are very well cleaned. The pork intestines' tough inner skin (which is exposed to bolus and pre-fecal materials) is completely removed. Then, the intestine is exhaustively soaked, cleaned and rinsed. The nephrons of pork kidneys are skilfully excised, and the kidneys are soaked for several hours and cleaned.

The use of the pancreas, liver, kidney, gall bladder, lung and even bronchus of various farm animals together with herbs in Chinese medicine have strong empirical theories and studies are being conducted to try to understand their nature in modern scientific terms. However, there are other strange offal usages in folk practice. Taoist and rural folk beliefs have their influence. The idea of essences and energy, heat and cold, are key. Snake wine with a live snake gallbladder is thought to promote stamina due to the "essences of energy and heat", which is derived from a snake's attributes, such as aggressive behavior (fiery) and venom (energy). When bears were more common in the Chinese northeast, bears claw and dried bear offal were used as medicines, seen as a source of vitality. Dry deer antlers are still a common medicine, thought to provide "yang energy" to complement the male sex and the tail, "yin energy" for the female sex. Extractions of animal penises and testes are still believed to contribute to better male performance and those of the embryo and uterus to the eternal youth of the female. However, these are being marginalized as synthetic hormones get more popular and affordable.

The Cantonese consumed monkey brains, but this is now rare to non-existent, and primarily offered to rich, Western tourists.

In Japan chicken offal is often skewered and grilled over charcoal as yakitori, to be served alongside drinks in an izakaya, a Japanese food-pub. Offal originating from cattle is also an ingredient in certain dishes (see yakiniku). However, traditional Japanese culture mostly disdains offal use from large animals due to the lack of a long tradition of meat-eating, since Buddhist Japan was a largely vegetarian nation (except for the consumption of fish and seafood) prior to the late 19th century. During the Sino-Japanese War, Japanese troops took pigs from Chinese farmers and slaughtered the animals only for the major muscles (no head, feet and fully disemboweled). This has changed in recent times, and restaurants specializing in offal (particularly beef offal), often Korean-style, are quite common, serving a wide variety of offal cuts (e.g., tracheal rings (ウルテ, urute?)), generally grilled or in a stew. This is referred to as motsu (もつ?) or (in Kansai) horumon (ホルモン?). And in some part of Japan such as Yamanashi,Nagano,Kumamoto etc., they eat horse offal to be served as simmered dish etc.

In Korea, offal usage is very similar to mainland China but less frequent. Grilled intestine slices and pork blood are both consumed. Headcheese prepared with pork head meat was quite popular in the past. Steamed pork intestines are easy to be found in traditional markets. The popular traditional Korean sausage called soondae is steamed pork small intestines filled with pork blood, seasoned noodles, and vegetables. Pork feet steamed in a special stock are considered delicacy in Korea. Beef stomach and intestines are still quite popular for cooking. It is not difficult to find grilled chicken hearts, gizzards, and feet in traditional street bars. Medicinal usages are also similar to mainland China and less common with offal uses.

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