Merica, the land of the brave and the home of the free or something like that. Everything is measured in non-metric, or as one local put it (tongue firmly in cheek) “freedom units“.
One food I’ve been really keen to get my hands on since arrival is a proper Black Pudding.
Black pudding or Blood Sausage (as it’s known throughout the rest of Europe) is exactly as it sounds, though more sausage than pudding. It’s generally pork blood, barley and oatmeal in a sausage skin or in Europe it’s likely to contain onion to soak up the bloodiness.
Not having had Black Pudding before, I was curious to see if it tasted really bloody. You know that metallic taste you get from raw blood? Or that distinctive taste from a really rare steak?
As someone who likes my steak practically mooing, the thought of a sausage filled with it doesn’t really make me balk but I can definitely understand why the mere mention of it makes people cry out with an involuntarily EW! Heck, there are people out there that faint at the sight of blood let alone gobble it up for dinner.
In the UK it’s not too hard to find dishes that incorporate Black Pudding into the menu. In an Oxford pub we found a delicious croquette version that was insanely tasty … but then again isn’t everything deep fried insanely tasty? I also found it mixed into a burger bun. Whilst the burger pretty much hid all trace of the pudding, the croquette had a deep and rich taste that was almost like a rich beef pate or slow cooked meat. Not bloody at all.
Thanks to a friend’s suggestion on how he used to eat Black Pudding in the UK , I ventured to a local butcher to buy myself some pud to cook at home. Immediately a little bit of panic set in when I had to choose which type I wanted. Though according to the butcher “Nah it doon matta, theyrall te seam.” Right.
With three fat slices in hand I was pretty chuffed with my purchase (see top image) and excited at the prospect of cooking it at home. The meal I had in mind was a pretty simple brekky consisting of a crusty roll, filled with the pudding (lightly fried first), cheese, spinach leaves, red onion, runny eggs and lashings of sauce (Thanks Pete!).
It’s probably a sin that I didn’t use HP sauce and opted for tomato instead. It’s best I leave the country tonight actually as I’m likely to be deported.
Carrying on …
It’s when you cook the pudding that you realise why it’s called black. It’s actually goes black. Then it goes sticky. Then it sticks to your spatula. Then you realise why they encase it in bread crumbs or mix it into burgers. It quickly turns into bloody mush.
Luckily I managed to get it out of the pan and into the bun in fairly in tact pieces without too much swearing and I constructed … THE BEST BREAKFAST EVER!
Well not really … but wow was it yum! The pudding was so rich in flavour and when put together with egg and sauce it’s a great combination. I want some more! Seriously I’m thinking of buying it back home, though if I ate that every morning I’d probably turn into a sausage shaped person .. It’s not the lightest of food options.In fact I think HP sauce would be too strong with it … waits for the police.
In fact it’s not bread at all …
It’s actually boiled and minced seaweed (laver): a popular ingredient in Welsh dishes, particularly for breakfast when coated with oatmeal and served with cockles.
I don’t know many people who don’t like Pork Crackling…
Other than the previously mentioned fried dried fish skins and possibly jerky there are few more appealing beer snacks.
What if your pork crackling resembled a pigs face? How would you feel about cutting into it and nomming on it then? Luckily for me, I don’t suffer from the common “I can’t eat it if it has a face” dilemma so when a friend recommended I try the roasted 1/2 pigs head at Josie Bones in Smith Street Collingwood I jumped at the chance!
For the unacquainted Josie Bones is known for its approach to cooking the whole animal and using beer when appropriate to cook. They also stock a ridiculously large menu of local and imported beers and are willing to recommend according to your taste.
As any large piece of meat should, it takes a while for a pig’s head to come out of the kitchen, so naturally it made sense to order a couple of the “bites” items off the menu beforehand and a couple of beers. Oysters natural, Quail Egg and Leek and Bone Marrow croquettes. Other than the oysters being incredibly fresh the other two dishes were nice but not outstanding. It left us wanting more.
You ask and you shall receive! When the pig’s head arrived we almost regretted ordering entrees as… it’s a beast! Seriously a pig’s head is really quite a thing to behold in real life, well… roasted life. The ear, the huge jaw complete with teeth, the snout and the delicious looking cheek that you could just tell would hold such juicy meat, it was very exciting and a little overwhelming deciding where to begin!
We started on the cheek, the skin gave way under the sharp knife with a satisfying crack and pop and the meat complete with crunchy skin atop lifted away from the bone with little effort. It was served with a jus (well I think it was a jus!) which cut through the very salty flavour very nicely and let’s just say that cheek was demolished in a time that would be the envy of most competition eaters!
The Kipfler potatoes on the side and seasoned rocket were mostly ignored amongst the mountain of pork, however it was nice to munch on something else to break the flavour up at points. We were recommended to try a certain beer with the pork, a sweet and sour beer called HaandBryggeriet. Whilst I understand the concept of the sweet and sour matching well with the pork, it didn’t quite do it for me. It’s a VERY strong-tasting beer that leaves a rather strong aftertaste which coupled with salty pork has more flavour overload than an original sour warhead. A pint of apple cider however… magic!
It really is surprising how much meat is on a head, other than the obvious cheek and snout it was surprising that around the eye socket and forehead held quite a bit of flesh, all with varying strengths of pork taste and all covered in more crackling than you can poke a stick at… no we didn’t eat all the crackling, I’m pretty sure if we did I’d be writing this from a cardiac arrest ward.
All in all between two people we ate the majority of the meat and I would say if you wanted a hearty meal for two with no entree this would suit most people. OR as the waitress suggested it would be an amazing thing for a larger party to order and share.
One thing I really liked about the place was the fact that we did not feel rushed to leave. I’ve been to so many Melbourne restaurants that are happy to serve you dinner, get your drinks and the bill then rush you out of there to seat the next group. Whilst I understand it’s in the nature of the business, it’s nice to sit back after such a meal with another drink and not feel pressured to exit the building.
Definitely an experience!
Well once they were alive… now they are deep-fried and covered in chili and salt!
To preface: We decided on a cheeky overnight trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou via 300kph bullet train (AMAZING!) to try to escape the city and possibly the heat for a night…
I like to think myself pretty lucky that I have a high tolerance for spicy food dishes.If I didn’t, then I would be missing out on so many awesome meals and choice, especially in Asia.
It is without fear of the “ring of fire” that I often order the spiciest on the menu, partly for the flavour and partly for the challenge.
I don’t know what the big fuss is about…Yes it smells a bit pongy, and looks like some sort of strange cheese, but stinky fermented tofu is actually quite delicious!
It has a smell, sort of like dirty wet socks and a touch of “I’ve left my washing in the machine too long” smell. However, when fried and served with sweet soy and chilli sauce, the smell goes away and a delicious pickled tofu taste emerges, and let’s be honest anything fried tastes better doesn’t it?
We sampled these from the touristy area of Yu Yuan Gardens in Shanghai, where the food vendors lining the streets sell all manner of things, but none so enticing as those mouldy socks!