This posting is about organs, specifically duck kidneys so if you're squeamish about internal organs, you are warned!
Culture inspires me, religion invigorates me (as in a healthy, respectful debate) and languages interest me (admittedly, I have yet to master my own heritage language and the state of my French will leave my professeur in despair). And while religion and language are strong components of a culture, I would say nothing says culture more adepthly than food. It is also perhaps the easiest way to get introduced to a new culture. It's what I call a 3-D experience; you can smell it, taste it, feel it...And well, if it's alive before you gobble it, I suppose you can say you can hear it too?
Growing up in a Chinese family, I've had my fair share of what my non-Asian friends term as 'exotic' fare and I never fail to be amused by this. I suppose if you've been exposed to certain things from a young age, it doesn't strike you as unusual. And so, chicken feet, deep-fried sweet and sour intestines, braised kidneys, livers, stomach...I've had them and they're good! But, I am surprised that a few of my originally-from-Hong Kong friends are repulsed by this type of food. On the flip side, I do have a friend who eats pig brains and chicken testicles but I haven't worked up to that level yet.
Here are a few of the yummy dishes I mentioned above...Pics curtesy of Google.
Mom says that about 30 years ago, wings ($0.25/lb), blue crabs ($0.25/lb), pork bones ($0.10/lb) and oxtails ($0.39/lb) were cheap! No one wanted chicken gizzards and were given away for free as with chicken feet from poultry farms. How silly, my mom thought of the non-Asians...All this good food and no one knows what to do with them. It's a different story now.
I am actually impressed that when an animal is slaughtered in an Asian market, generally, few parts are wasted...We're not going to get into sharks fin in this posting. That's a contentious one right now as Toronto considers a new ban on it. All I'm going to say is that while I'm a meat eater (I had a failed attempt at being a vegetarian), I don't believe in animal suffering and wastage.
And now for my mom's duck kidneys. A family friend wanted to buy some dried duck kidneys for her watercress soup. At $28/lb, my mom said 'STOP'! She went to the supermarket at bought them fresh at $2.29/lb. Once dried, the 10lbs of fresh kidneys weighed in at 2.5lbs...And she spent only about $23.00! Moms are so economical! I wonder if they somehow magically become know-it-alls the minute they turn into a mom!
News of her dried duck kidneys travelled fast and for weeks after, we had racks and racks of drying duck kidneys. Below are two recipes, for dried duck kidneys and braised duck kideys in soy sauce.
Dried Duck Kidneys
-5lbs fresh duck kidneys yields approx. 1lb dried
1. Rinse, clean and snip of fatty bits from kidneys. Put into bowl.
2. Pour sea salt over kidneys, mix well, set aside in friedge overnight.
3. Layer kidneys on drying rack and leave in sunny location for drying. At night, we put the trays near heat vents to speed up drying process.
(This would never work in Hong Kong; it's way to moist and it'll just get mouldy.)
4. Once dried, the kidneys take on a rich, deep burgundy hue. Pack in jar or plastic bag for future use.
**Pick out small ones for braising as once dried, these become too small. See below for braising recipe.
Ever the economical mom, she dries the older veggie leaves for making veggie soup. I included them here as a nice contrast to the dark red of the dried kidneys.
Braised Duck Kidney in Soy Sauce:
-Seasoning: soy sauce, rice wine, star anise, sliced ginger, sugar, sesame oil, a little water.
1. Rinse, clean and snip of fatty bits from duck kidneys. Drain and set aside.
2. Simmer in a pot, the seasoning ingredients. When it starts to bubble gently, lower temperature and add the kidneys.
3. Simmer for 15mins. Remove and garnish with scallions and/or coriander.
**If there's a lot of seasoning sauce leftover, once cooled, pour into container and freeze for next use. You can use it to simmer pork tongue or hard-boiled eggs.