Assorted Livestock 2: Beef tongue (牛舌)

Beef tongue is the one of the best foods around. Remove the tough skin, shave off the membrane, slice, and cook it together with braising beef.

It can also be salted and air-dried in the winter for eating the following year. When prepare thus, it has all the qualities of an excellent ham.


Calf tongues are a bit more delicate then beef tongues, but really they’re more or less the same thing. (Credit: P.Lameiro)

As one goes through Yuan Mei’s recipes, one slowly realizes that though he had a keen interest in gastronomy, he likely never set foot into the kitchen to see how the dishes were actually prepared. If anything he just asked his personal chef Yang-er (楊二), and Yang-er would gave some very general answers that filtered out a bunch of valuable information. For example, in preparing beef tongue, one has to first boil it in order to remove the tough and spiky outer skin of the tongue. If this isn’t done, skinning the tongue would be very difficult at best. We clearly don’t see this important step here. Perhaps Yang-er thought this step too trivial to mention and omitted it, and Yuan Mei may not have never thought to enquire further? This leaves one wondering what other important bits of instructions are being left out of these recipes.

In any case, the two beef tongue recipes here sounds pretty good. Braising different cuts of meat from the same animal together is typically a good thing since it improve the meat’s flavours and textures. In this case it means that the beef tongue, which typically does not taste too much like “beef”, would get a bolder and beefier flavour.

I am especially intrigued by the second receipe for tongue ham, but it’s too bad that the instructions for making it are almost non-existent. I guess that’s yet another recipe where it’s up to the reader to rediscover how to prep it.


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