Birds 27: Chicken Gizzards (雞腎)

“Take thirty chicken gizzards and scald them in boiling water. Remove their tough membranes, then braise them in chicken broth with seasonings. The delicate sweetness and tender textures of this dish is unrivalled.”

雞腎
取雞腎三十個,煮微熟,去皮,用雞湯加作料煨之。鮮嫩絕倫。

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Chicken gizzards have rather interesting names in different languages. The Cantonese call them “chicken kidneys” (雞腎), in German they’re call “chewing stomachs” (kaumangen), and in Japan they’re know as “bags of sand” (砂嚢). The English and French names for gizzards comes from the Latin term for “innards”. (Credit: Rainer Zenz)

The name used by Yuan Mei to refer to chicken gizzards is “jishen”(雞腎), which literally translates to “chicken kidneys”. However, we know that it does not actually refer to a chicken’s actual kidneys for two reasons. First, the recipe describes removing a skin like membrane, which the small, mushy, unpleasant tasting true kidneys of the chicken do not have, and second, at least one Chinese language (Cantonese) uses the term to refer to chicken gizzards. In contemporary Mandarin and a few other Chinese languages, they are known more commonly as “jizhen” (雞胗).

As for the cooked item, Most modern Chinese preparations do not braise gizzards until tender. Rather the preference is no preserved the unique “crisp” texture of this muscular organ and allow it to be enjoyed. One of the most renowned Chinese dish with chicken gizzards in a starring role is “youbao shuangcui” (油爆雙脆, lit. Oil fried double crisp), which pairs its texture with that of pork stomach.

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