05 Jun2006

Glorious Offal

by Marketman


Warning! This post is not for the faint of heart. Skip to the chocolate posts if you only eat well-done beef and/or chicken breasts. One of the things that made La Boqueria such an interesting market was the stunning selection of offal. The term offal originally applied to the entrails of an animal offal2but today it covers not only the heart, liver, lungs but also brains, head, tongue and tails… Spain and Italy have a terrific penchant for cooking many of these internal organs and some of the dishes are simply delicious. I will be the first to admit I am a bit queasy at the thought of eating offal. Yet I have tasted brains several times in Indonesia and elsewhere, mostly battered and fried. I love oxtails particularly in slow cooked soups. I have had calf’s testicles sautéed (otherwise known as prairie oysters!) and sweetbreads (typically the thymus gland or pancreas of young animals) at fine restaurants, rare calf’s liver and even tripe. We eat crispy pig’s feet here in the Philippines, not to mention dinuguan (entrails and blood) and sisig (which ideally includes pig’s cheeks and ears).

However, I have rarely cooked these parts of the animals before. One reason is that they are not so readily available in Manila at groceries where I buy meat. I am also not fond of offal4local market meat sources and the general hygiene situation so I avoid experimentation for the most part. But as I grow older and my palate shifts, I have gotten curious about some of these types of offal. Mainstream chefs and cookbooks are increasingly covering accessible recipes that I am itching to try…Mario Batali is among them…his recent cookbooks have several recipes for offal. So what did I see in the brilliant cases of the butchers at La Boqueria? First up top, some of the most vividly fresh looking brains I have ever seen. But like fresh. And they were so beautifully displayed. There were also lots of whole sheep’s heads on offer, complete with the eyes, which are a delicacy. I have to say, if I were served a stew with a whole sheep’s head and eyes, I would have some issues with munching on it.

They also had several types of tripe (didn’t know there was more than one type) on offer. offal3It seems that a cow has four chambers to its stomach. The lining of the first chamber is known as smooth or blanket tripe and this is generally considered inferior to the tripe from the second chamber which is known as honeycomb tripe. This photo (I will never ask why it’s local name in the Philippines is tuwalya or towel) shows both types of tripe with the one with a more distinct pattern the ideal ingredient for callos or other such preparations. Mario Batali recommends that you soak the tripe in water and add some vinegar and vanilla and boil it for an hour or so to remove the off flavors that sometimes occur (otherwise known as malangsa!) before you continue with its preparation. We had some excellent tripe in Florence that has really piqued my interest in cooking this.

The market cases also had an impressive selection of incredibly red offal5fresh livers, ox tails, tongues, pig’s feet and ears, and a few things I couldn’t even identify! The fact that there was so much on offer suggests an incredible turnover of these cuts of meat. One thing I observed was the incredible size of the offal on offer! Never have I seen such large pig’s ears or livers of such expanse! The tongues also looked bigger… all of these items did look incredibly fresh!



  1. Apicio says:

    That’s Mario Batali for you. I heard his dad produces sublime culatello in Washington state, but Mario, let us remind ourselves, is trying to introduce a sanitized food item to his countrymen in a time and place where any smell that can be washed off simply with water is usually masked and drowned with chemical spray. Earthiness is the essential flavour of tripe and Frenchmen are passionate about it and that is why Tripe á la mode de Caen takes its rightful place somewhere in between the intense fetidness of époise and the sublime scents of Houbigant, Coty and Guerlain among the glories of France. Only cattle raised in chemical feed would at times give off an undesirable odour. Green grass grased animals supply us with a flavourful tripe that can rival any Callos Madrileños any day of the year.

    Jun 5, 2006 | 7:24 am


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  3. lee says:

    offal heaven is gouty men’s hell.

    Jun 5, 2006 | 11:43 am

  4. fried-neurons says:

    Okay, those sheep heads are scary! And I don’t think I could ever eat eyeballs. Yikes.

    Sweetbreads are yummy, though. :)

    Jun 5, 2006 | 12:28 pm

  5. juls says:

    uhhh…. they look clean tho

    Jun 5, 2006 | 1:20 pm

  6. goodtimer says:

    they serve calf’s brain in behrouz middle east resto. would that be the same as offal?

    Jun 6, 2006 | 12:26 am

  7. Marketman says:

    Apicio, didn’t realize the really earthy smells and tastes of tripe were a turn on for most…I am a bit quesy about it, must be a texture thing. lee, I do get gout (though no attack for more than 3 years now) so gotta steer clear of too much offal. fried neurons, if you are the guest of honor the host will ladle an eyeball or two especially for you…heehee. juls, they DID look very clean and fresh. And yes, goodtimer, calf’s brain is offal as well.

    Jun 6, 2006 | 5:56 am

  8. ivan the streetwalker says:


    I tried goats brain once in Marrackech, they weren’t that bad , very creamy in fact except that it WAS goats brain…

    Jun 6, 2006 | 9:57 am

  9. igoy says:

    am just laughing here. offal, is a new word for me. goodies are what we call these offal where i came from (SAGADA) and also here in MCALLEN, TX.

    i still remember the 3rd day after any community wedding which we call “pappa” in SAGADA to be the best breakfast meal. overnight they boil the stomach/tripes from the previous butchered pigs from the wedding and then served hot for breakfast, yummm. i have not gone home for 10 years but was able to find the same well cooked tripe offered at flea market food stalls by MEXICAN migrants here in TEXAS.

    to help with the gout problems, do drink a lot of fresh young buko juice.

    Jun 6, 2006 | 12:28 pm

  10. RST says:

    Many years ago, while still in high school (Xavier), I ran away from home to Sagada for an unforgettable month in the mountains and enjoyed tripe like you describe from a large boiling cauldron of wild boar at a wedding I attended. What memories!

    La boqueria not only has spectacular offal, but the selection of seafood/shellfish is absolutely imcomparable. There’s percebes, razor clams (which they will grill for you at the stalls), the marvellous espardenyes, which I have written about at length elsewhere (i.e. egullet.com) There is also a wonderful purveyor of local mushrooms towards the back of the market and many unusual varieties can often be found during the foraging seasons. A horsemeat specialist (not at all that unusual in Europe: horse meat butchers can be found in Mantova, Belgium etc.) is towards the front, near the Rambles entrance.

    I have an old, very long post on Chowhound Chicago board on the four chambers of the bovine stomach and the Florentine panino di lampredotto (lampredotto being the rennet stomach-the most prized of the four types of tripe).


    Jun 7, 2006 | 3:25 am

  11. gonzo says:

    I think one cannot call himself a gourmet or foodie if one does not like offal. Health reasons aside, most food people relish offal dishes. Nothing more annoying to me than squeamish Americans who know nothing about proper food and buy all their meats and fish in ‘safe’ vacuum packed plastic at the local Safeway.

    At least the yanks now have people like Mario Batali and Tony Bourdain to help them broaden their palates.

    Batali for one has single-handedly taught Americans about real italian food, and moved them away from their primitive spaghetti and meatballs stage.

    Jun 7, 2006 | 7:00 am


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