You gotta either love it or hate it. There is no gray area on this one, at least not in my opinion. Lengua was one of the most requested dishes in the run-up to the Christmas holidays and I had good intentions about featuring it but just never got around to it. The procrastination was partially a result of my ambivalence towards this dish. As much as I eat, explore, search and document food, I am actually NOT that adventurous, and am somewhat squeamish about odd animal organsâ€¦ I am not fond of brain, dinuguan, even sisig, liver (except duck or goose), kidneys, bullâ€™s testicles, and odd chicken parts and bits. I think the only internal organs I consume on a large basis are intestines as part of sausage linksâ€¦ Itâ€™s a childhood thing, I know, even a mom-bias against most offal of most sorts (though she adored liver) , and frankly, a psychological shortcoming brought on by the knowledge of the parts location in the host animalâ€¦worse, I am a texture kind of guy and if something doesnâ€™t feel right, it ainâ€™t going down wellâ€¦
But I was determined to do this dish justice and make it myself. The first step was to find a decent recipe from which to base my attemptâ€¦ Most of the recipes I found describe braising the tongue in a tomato based sauce for several hours until tender. I found many similarities between these braising liquids and Chris Bautistaâ€™s excellent recipe for Morcon so I decided I could definitely do this. Historically, animal tongues have featured as a delicacy in many parts of the world, so it is not unusual at all to enjoy the tongue of a cow or bull (not sure they differentiate that at all). On first inspection, the tongue itself is just godawful whopping HUMONGOUS!!! Yikes, I have never purchased a cow tongue before and the heft was just stunning. It was so big and so darn graphic that you could make out the bumps on the tongues surface, that I can only assume are its equivalent of taste buds. Why cows would need taste buds when they only eat grass is beyond meâ€¦but then again maybe they can tell the subtle nuances of grass raised on volcanic soil versus sandy loam or whether the grass was at its peak or slightly past its primeâ€¦
Back home, I followed instructions from a recipe attributed to Carmen Gonzalez, in The Philippine Cookbook, to plunge the humongous tongue into some boiling water and after about 10 minutes, take it out and scrape off the white residue on the skin. I have to be honest; seeing this tongue “naked and raw” was not good for my already psychologically challenged anti-tongue mindset! I then coated the tongue in flour and browned it over high heat in a large oval dutch oven with some olive oil. Remove the tongue and make the braising liquid by sautÃ©ing some onions and garlic in a large oval dutch oven, add some good white wine, canned plum tomatoes, some brown sugar, Kikkoman soy sauce, some apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon) and several bay leaves. Make sure to check the taste of the braising liquid as it sometimes has a tendency to get a little sour which you can balance out with some more brown sugar and/or more soy sauce. Some folks Stick the tongue back into the pot (the liquid should come about half way up the tongue) and simmer over a low flame for roughly 2 hours or until the tongue is tender.
Remove the tongue and boil down the sauce to thicken it and add chopped button mushrooms and olives and cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. It is important to taste the sauce at this juncture as the salt and pepper can still be adjusted. Next, slice the tongue and lay it out on a warm platter. Ladle some of the braising liquid onto the pieces of tongue and serve hot. The verdict? EEEEWWW!!?! The sauce was superb, but I just COULD NOT get over the spongey texture of the tongue!! And as my mind raced faster with the thought of eating one of those â€œBODY PARTS,â€ I just couldnâ€™t eat much more than a few pieces of the lengua. It was definitely worse that I saw the tongue throughout the cooking process and could identify the part under the tongue that would move it around. I can even eat more well-made callos (tripe) or tripa in a Florentine market than I can lengua made in my own kitchen… So which camp do you fall into, love it or hate it???