soy-braised ox tongue
I don’t much care for kidneys or sweetbreads of the testicular variety (aka lamb fries), but on the whole I really do like offal. Love even. In particular I have a real fondness for ox tongue which, due to its relatively high fat content, has a rich flavour and is wonderfully versatile. Delicious whether thinly sliced and grilled Japanese (or Korean) style to springy perfection, slow-cooked for hours until succulent and tender or simply salted, boiled and sandwiched in rye.
It’s not a cut I’ve ever balked at as I grew up with it – my mum had two recipes in her repertoire that she’d pull out for dinner party spreads; a sultry goulash-inspired number, and my favourite, braised Chinese style with soy, ginger and spring onion. Admittedly beef tongue is not the prettiest of things to deal with and whenever I prepare it I do understand why people may be averse to consuming it. But ugliness aside, it’s not too fiddly and if you just suck it up, the results are totally worth it.
Reducing the gravy at the end is not meant to thicken it, but merely intensify the flavours so taste as you go and stop once it’s as rich as you would like it. You may also need to tweak the seasoning at the end, adding an extra splash of soy (light for salt and dark for colour) or a pinch of sugar. My mum always made this dish the day before so that the meat could sit in the fridge overnight and take on all the flavours but I’m never patient enough to wait an entire day. Add a plate of stir-fried greens and steamed rice and this would feed a foursome very well, however it is very rich, so I would suggest serving it with a few more dishes as a meal for a larger group of 6 to 8.
Soy-Braised Ox Tongue
1 ox tongue* (unsalted)
4 stalks spring onion, sectioned
4 thick slices ginger, bashed
2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
2 tbsp shaoxing wine (or sherry)
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of salt
Wash the tongue under the tap then pop in a large heavy-based pot. Toss in half the spring onion, 1 slice of ginger and half the wine and fill with enough boiling water to submerge the tongue. Bring to the boil then leave to cook on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Give the same pot a quick rinse and wipe dry. Heat the oil on a medium high flame and fry 2 slices of ginger until fragrant. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until softened. Push the onion to the side to make room for the tongue. Sear the meat, turning to brown all sides evenly.
Once the tongue is well coloured add the soy, sugar, salt and remaining wine, then pour in boiling water to cover (if a little is peeking out that’s fine) and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce to a strong simmer. After 30 minutes turn the tongue over and cook, covered, for a further half an hour. Insert a skewer into the tongue to test doneness, leaving to cook for 15 more minutes if the meat isn’t tender.
Remove the tongue and leave on a cutting board to cool completely. Pull off the outer layer of skin on the tongue and discard. Slice the cooked meat thickly (about 2cm) and place back into the pan togther with the remaining ginger and spring onions. Simmer for 20-30 minutes then taste and adjust the seasoning. Keep reducing the sauce until it reaches your desired intensity.
Serve with steamed rice and vegetables**.
* you should be able to order this from your local butchers. I usually get mine fresh from Jack O’Shea in Selfridges, but aIso like to keep one from online butchers Donald Russell (they deliver nation-wide) in the freezer to defrost at a moment’s notice.
** or cool, refrigerate and reheat the next day (to let the flavours develop).