Animal organs are an acceptable staple of the Chinese diet. Many popular dishes in China, such as stir-fried pork liver or fried pig intestines, use animal viscera as their primary ingredients. Despite the popularity of eating animal organs in China, however, many foreigners here choose to opt out of even trying such dishes.
To better understand their attitudes against eating animal viscera, the Global Times recently invited four brave foreigners - British Hannah Sykes, Americans Sean Hillier and Nicholas Erickson and Russian Catherine Valley - to taste various organs. They ranked each snack based on its appearance, flavor and texture.
(Above from left) Nicholas Erickson, Hannah Sykes, Catherine Valley and Sean Hillier Photos: Yang Hui/GT
Various animal organ snacks
Pig heart (7.5 points)
The first dish they tried was slices of pig heart. Though at first the foreigners were hesitant about trying this viscera dish, some immediately fell in love with the flavor after tasting.
Erickson, who ate several pieces within a few minutes, noted that pig heart is very tasty. Likewise, Sykes said she likes the spicy sauce on the meat. "I am really surprised. I will buy this," she told the Global Times.
In terms of texture, Sykes said it is chewy and similar to beef jerky. Valley added, "It is hard. I have to chew it." Likewise, Hillier said the meat is tough and if he eats too much he will have jaw ache.
On a scale of one to 10, Erickson gave it an 8.5 and Sykes an eight. Valley and Hillier only rated it a seven. Valley explained that she usually doesn't eat spicy food. "But it is still delicious," she added. Hillier said if pig heart was served with other things, such as rice, the taste would be much better.
Duck tongue (6 points)
When our participants saw this snack being served, they were immediately confused about which part of the body it belongs to.
Sykes said it looks like noodles, but she knew it couldn't be noodles. Likewise, Hillier said, "It has two tiny little legs. Maybe it is the feet of some animal." Valley said she just couldn't imagine the origins of this organ.
At first they were confused which end to start nibbling on, either the tip (tongue part) or the back (bone part). After they bit in, their facial expressions were comically unpleasant.
Sykes told the Global Times that she is not used to eating food that has bones in it, as meat in Britain is normally served without bone. "It tastes like a part we shouldn't eat," she added.
Erickson said the flavor is actually not that bad, but he was not used to the texture. "The sauce is good, but we rarely eat animal tongues, so it is strange for us," he said. Valley commented that she was "scared."
As for its score, Erickson and Valley gave it a six; Hillier a solid five; Sykes a seven.
Pig liver (8.5 points)
Our participants said the flavor of this snack is more foreigner-friendly, as it is not so spicy. "Actually I am really surprised, as it has a really nice flavor," Sykes commented. Hillier said this flavor was "the best so far."
Notably, each of the foreigners said they like both the texture and the flavor of pig liver. Hillier said he might eat this snack along with a cold beer, and Erickson said he might put a slice on his morning toast. Sykes noted that the snack is easy to eat, because it has no bones to pick out and is not hard to chew.
Valley pointed out that pig liver contains an abundance of nutritional components, so eating the snack could be good for one's health. In fact, many Chinese believe pig liver benefits the eyes, as it is rich in Vitamin A.
Erickson gave pig liver a high nine; Sykes rated it an 8.5; Valley an eight; Hillier a solid 8.2. "This is absolutely great. This is the best on the table," Hillier raved to the Global Times.
Duck intestines (6.9 points)
Upon seeing this dish, Erickson guessed it might be duck feet, while Sykes said it looks like Italian pasta. "I hope it will taste like Italian pasta," Valley joked.
After tasting, Erickson realized it could be intestine. In terms of its texture, the participants said it tastes soft but rubbery. "It doesn't taste like pasta at all. It is more chewy," Sykes said. Hillier also compared its texture to that of octopus and squid, claiming they all taste chewy and rubbery.
As for its flavor, our participants said it is quite spicy. "This is the spiciest so far," Valley said. Erickson rated the duck intestines a 5.5; Valley and Hillier only gave it a six, as they felt the snack is too spicy. But Sykes gave it a nine.
Ox tripe (7.5 points)
Ox tripe is a very popular dish in China, especially for hot pot. Erickson was the first to try the tripe, but his hands were visibly shaking as he did so.
"I don't like the flavor too much, and the texture is not perfectly pleasant. But the chewiness is nice," Erickson said after.
Hillier was the second to try, and noted that tripe tastes "furry" in his mouth. "It must be the stomach of a cow. The texture is really soft," he said.
Valley added, "It is chewy. I need to work on it. It is not bad, because it is sweet. I like sweet food."
As for its score, Sykes gave it a seven; both Hillier and Erickson gave it a five. "I am a weird-texture kind of guy, but the texture of this was just too weird for me," Hillier laughed.
However, Valley gave the dish a nine, the highest. "It is not that spicy. It also has special flavor, like roasted meat," she said.
Pig intestines (8 points)
Sykes said it looks like kidney, because the shape is similar. "You can smell it is kidney," she added.
After tasting, Erickson became fond of the flavor. "This is fantastic. I would give it a 10. I will order this," he told the Global Times.
In terms of texture, Sykes felt it is neither crunchy nor soft. "It is like regular meat. It is very similar to the texture of beef or lamb," she said.
Sykes gave it an eight, and she said it is a bit too spicy for her. In comparison, Valley only rated it a five. She explained that although she liked the sauce, she felt the flavor was just too strong.
Notably, both Erickson (a 10) and Hillier (a nine) gave pig intestines high marks. "The texture is great, but I believe it is intestine. It has the flavor of poop," Hillier said.