5 bites to know about offal food, which isn't so awful

10:07 PM, Nov 14, 2013   |    comments
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If you have trouble stomaching those "nasty bits" or the thought of eating organs makes you queasy, think about this: for some people, eating brains is a no-brainer. Many cultures already eat so-called offal dishes. Now, more restaurants across the nation are showcasing it.

What is offal?

Offal, pronounced like "awful," is meat fromleftover animal parts that often get tossed out in the trash.

"It's all the parts you're not used to eating," Mighty Tavern Chef Jason Azevedo said. "It's the kidneys, the liver, the head."

Offal also includes organs and extremities like tails, tongue and feet.

Offal is popular in many cultures

There's haggis from Scotland, menudo from Mexico, pho from Vietnam and dinaguang from the Philippines.

"Beef tongues makes good tacos," Taylor's Market co-owner Danny Johnson said. "So does pig's head, it makes good tacos, (as well as) head cheese."

You don't have to go far to find unusual animal parts. Inside an Asian grocery store, you can find pork tongues, chicken feet and duck gizzards.

Inside a Mexican grocery store, you'll find pork stomach and pork skin, otherwise known as chicharones.

More people take a bite out of the "nose-to-tail trend"

"It's not mainstream," Johnson said. "It's becoming more mainstream."

Johnson said more chefs are serving up a variety of meats and offal that are cooked and served in a variety of ways.

"They're trying to think outside the box and use the whole animal," Johnson explained.

Azevedo's serves multiple offal dishes at his Fair Oaks restaurant Mighty Tavern.

One dish is chicken liver mousse.

"It's the most friendly," Azevedo explained. "It's the lightest."

Another option is Coppa di Testa.

"It's the whole pig head that's been boned out," explained Azevedo. "So that's pig snout, tongue, cheek, the whole thing."

Plenty of Sacramento restaurants serve offal dishes

Taylor's Kitchen on Freeport Boulevard in Sacramento serves veal sweetbreads.

"They are the thymus gland of a veal," Taylor's Kitchen Chef Richard Telford said. "The flavor that's kind of like chicken, fattier chicken. It's a little bit of gaminess or earthiness to them."

Sweetbreads are also being served up at Mulvaney's and Waterboy. A number of other restaurants, like Ella Dining Room and Bar, serve roasted bone marrow.  At Enotria, diners can try beef tongue.

Several Chinese restaurants offer Dim Sum. On their menu, people might find chicken feet, duck tongues or duck chins.

If you're looking to try some new flavors, Johnson offered a few suggestions:

"Oxtail has a real rich flavor," he said.

"There's going to be some texture differences, especially in the tongue. It's going to be a little bit chewier," Johnson added.

Northern California offal events

Back in August, Sacramento celebrated all things offal. Organized by food blogger Catherine Enfield, of Munchie Musings, more than a dozen Sacramento restaurants served up some special samples as part of "Have an Offal Day." The event included skewers with beef tongue and heart, deep fried duck testicles and samosas with lamb brain, cheek and tongue.

RELATED STORY: Sacramento chefs turn "Offal" food into gourmet dining

The Bay Area has also celebrated offal things. In Oakland t had an "Offal Wonderful" week-long festival in September.

By Suzanne Phan, sphan@news10.net
Twitter: @SuzannePhan
Facebook: SuzannePhanNews10

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