For most meat eaters, there’s nothing better than tucking into a juicy piece of steak or a succulent chicken breast. Even on the briefest of visits to your local supermarket, it’s impossible to not notice shelves lined with rows and rows of chops, fillet, rump or thigh, all looking equally tender and tempting.
But, delve a little deeper beyond the meat and a slightly more gruesome question begins to emerge. Once all the delicious bits have been removed, what happens to the rest of the animal? That is what we are here to find out. Gathered from cooking cultures around the world, here a few recipes that feature some decidedly unorthodox animal parts. Tuck in, and tread carefully. Some of these may take some getting used to.
1. Chicken Feet
The western version of Chinese cooking is all about deep frying and sticky sauces. Take a trip to the Chinese mainland, however, and the reality becomes very different. Though bold flavours and powerful spices certainly play their part, a key tenament of traditional Chinese cooking is texture. This is where chicken feet come in. Deep fried, steamed or stewed, chicken feet have almost no muscle and are extremely gelatinous - a highly desirable quality in many staple dishes.
2. Pigs Trotters
Chickens aren’t the only animals that happen to have delicious appendages. Pigs trotters have been at the centre of cooking all over the world for centuries and are an incredibly cheap and highly versatile ingredient. In the West, they are often used to thicken gravy, add flavour to stock or even as a cut by themselves, whilst Asian countries often prepare them alongside noodle and rice dishes.
As if eyeing up a chicken’s foot wasn’t weird enough, some European chefs seem to have taken the advice “waste not, want not” a little too far. Cockscombs - the weird bright red flappy bit of skin that dangles from the top of a chicken’s head - have been featuring in European cooking for centuries, either as a garnish or a component in certain unusual sauces. We’re all for avoiding waste, but this seems a little excessive.
4. Tuna Eyeball
Though there are still some prudes out there who refuse to eat raw fish on principle, almost everyone has now accepted that sushi is delicious. There is, however, one fish focused Japanese delicacy that many of us may not yet be ready for. Tuna eyeball is a nightmare-inducing dish made from the lightly sauteed peeper of a recently deceased giant fish. With a flavour apparently similar to squid, this is one dish that may well taste better than it looks.
5. Duck Tongue
If you’re not in the know, you could be forgiven for asking the question whether or not ducks even have tongues. Not only is the answer apparently yes, but they are also incredibly delicious. Lightly fried and subtly seasoned, these two-inch morsels are prized for their intense fatty flavour and melt in the mouth texture unlike any other part of the animal.
6. Sheep Head
Though beef cheeks and lamb neck may be utterly delicious, if slightly unusual, alternatives to traditional cuts, there are many diners who would find the idea of being presented with an entire head somewhat disconcerting. These diners are advised to avoid Scandinavia around Christmas. Smalahove is a traditional Norwegian festive delicacy that features an entire boiled sheep’s head, served as a macabre centrepiece.
7. Various Testicles
Sometimes, if confronted with something that you’re afraid to eat, you’ve just got to take a deep breath and grab life by the balls. Animal testicles are actually eaten all over the world - from the lamb’s testes of Turkey to the Rocky Mountain oysters of North America - and have a rich and varied culinary history. Once you get over the initial shock, the popularity of these dishes really speaks for itself. This ingredient really is the dog’s bollocks.
It can be difficult for even the most experienced cooks to get their head around an unusual ingredient. Though they can sometimes seem like the last thing you should be putting in your mouth, the popularity of these traditions just goes to show that weird can still mean delicious.