Originally this dish is prepared with thin slices of boiled ox heart, tongue and stomach. When my chinese colleagues in Beijing used to order this dish, I’d recognize the tongue and pinch it out with my chopsticks. Maybe not a very polite thing to do, but hey, I was the foreigner.
Fuchsia Dunlop adjusted her recipe for man-and-wife meat slices to the West, using shank steak instead. But I like tongue, so I decided to adapt Fuchsia’s recipe back to my taste. Only, I never prepared tongue before in my life. Who has? So when I finally found a butcher who sold tongue I had to search the internet to find out how to prepare it. Unfortunately, the instructions went from soaking it for 2 days to just rinsing it before boiling it in a broth. I decided to go safe and in the middle.
So I rinsed and then soaked the tongue in cold salted water for 4 hours, changing the water once. Then boiling/blanching it for a minute or two. Throw away the water and then finally put it in the broth I prepared. I’m still not sure how much of this preperation is needed. The veal tongue looked/smelt/felt okay when I bought it. Hopefully I’ll find out whether I can safely skip these steps before the next time I will try this dish.
The next hurdle was deciding how long it should simmer. The silly thing was that I had asked my butcher for an ox tongue and during the whole cooking process never realized it was just too small to be from an ox. I only realized that after 4 hours of simmering!!! Haha. Which is way too long for an “exquisite” veal tongue.
I did check the skin regularly though. Recipes say the tongue is ready when the skin comes off easily. But even after 4 hours I didn’t think it came of easily. I expected something like the “falling of the bone”-stage with lambshanks. So when I finally decided (after 4 hours) that enough is enough and I was willing to cut the skin off if necessary, I found out that the skin indeed was coming of easily. Haha. You had to use some force, yes, pulling hard, but it came of in a few easy peels. So I guess that’s what they mean with “coming off easy”.
Next time I will simmer it much shorter. Or maybe longer, but in my crockpot/slowcooker. We’ll see. The tongue was still edible though! Even nice, if I say so myself. Especially for a first attempt ever of preparing ox euh veal tongue. Just not as velvety as it could have been. But I’m happy and call it a succes. :-)
Making the broth for the man-and-wife meat slices begins a little bit scary.You have to slowly heat:
2 T peanut oil with
2 T crushed chinese rock sugar
When the sugar has melted you have to raise the temperature and wait for the mixture to caramelize. When it has a nice brown (brown not burnt) colour you add a small coffee-cupful of cold water. But be careful, you have to immediately take back a step because it will steam and spat!! (I think I will just do it the simple way next time, heating caster sugar in a non-stick frying pan, wait until the sugar first melts, then caramelizes. No oil needed)
Transfer this caramel-sauce into a big enough pan for your veal tongue and add:
1 L good stock
2 t salt
2 T crushed rock sugar
1 big red onion
2 t sichuan peppercorns
2 t fennel seeds
8 cloves (their powdry heads pinched off and discarded)
This is the base to boil the veal tongue. But first soak the tongue for 4 hours in cold salted water. Change the water once. Then put it in a big pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes. Throw away the water and then simmer the tongue for about 2 hours in the broth. (although I’m not sure about the timing, sorry, 2 hours is what I would try next time)
After the tongue is cooked, let it cool down a little bit so you can handle it. It’s easiest to peel when still warm, so don’t let it get cold. Do NOT throw away the broth, you’ll need it for the sauce.
After it’s peeled, keep it in the fridge until needed. If there is still “too much creepy texture” on it, just peel it some more with your potato-peeler like I did. I have to admit that I wasn’t getting hungry while preparing this tongue. On the contrary. But when you slice it the next day and it’s not that recognizable anymore as a big, disgusting tongue, and you serve it with the following sauce, it really is very nice! Really!
For the Sauce :
4 T broth that your tongue was cooked in
1 T dark soysauce
2 T Sichuan Chili Oil
2 t toasted sesame seeds
2 T roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed
2 T coriander leaves
Don’t look too much at all the pictures, only look at the one at the top. Doesn’t that look yummie? I really think this recipe should win in this offal-competition on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog.