Why It Works
- Thoroughly washing, soaking, and blanching the intestine before cooking minimizes any gamey notes.
- An optional pan-frying step adds another layer of savory flavor and a crisp texture.
- Serving with pickles or citrus cuts through the intestine's fatty richness.
The last time I ate intestines, I was dining with friends in Atlanta at a soul food joint where, between mouthfuls of ham hock and collard greens, I insisted to our waitress that I wanted to try their chitterlings (or chitlins). When the plate arrived, our waitress apologetically told me that the chitlins would have been better deep-fried, which left me wondering why the restaurant didn't pop their chitlins in their excellent cornmeal batter and fry the heck out those suckers. As it was, our chitlins were served boiled and barely salted; they remained unpalatable even after numerous applications of tabasco sauce and pepper. The problem with the chitlins was twofold: overly chewy in texture and too aggressively intestinal in taste.
Someone, I am sure, must be willing to defend chitlins, that classic Southern dish of the smaller intestines of the pig, boiled with onions and served unembellished. Chitlins come from the same cooking tradition that offers such delectable treats as fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, fried chicken gizzards, and hushpuppies, just to name a few gems. Maybe after all that fried food, the palate wants something boiled, but chitlins, it seems to me, are an odd choice out of all the things that could be delicious when boiled.
For a while I refrained from intestinal dishes, not so much because of my singular bad experience with chitlins, but because there are so many other innards with which to be distracted. But now as the weather turns colder and soupy things become my default, I remember that one of my favorite toppings for noodle soup is, in fact, intestines. They are not the small intestines from which chitlins are made but part of the large intestines. At Asian markets you'll find this part of the large intestines labeled as bung. Its taste is meaty and porky and, because sometimes I am at a loss to describe that ineffably "gamey" or animalistic flavor of innards, let me just say that intestines taste "offal-y."
There's probably a fair bit of bunk about bung: namely, that it tastes like feces or foul digestive matter (only if it is not fresh) or that its texture is unpleasant (only if it is boiled for too long, or not long enough). The texture of the larger intestines is actually one of its appealing characteristics. Bung is tender and fatty, with some chewy resistance owing to the mass of tissues unique to that region. There's a lot of fatty tissue inside, which is precisely why the large pork intestines taste better to me than the small intestines—in the large ones, there's plenty of the soft interior to enjoy.
How to prepare bung? It's pretty similar to how you might make stomach. After an initial soak in water and vinegar, parboil the intestines, then simmer them in whatever flavors you would like. You can take the pan-Asian route and add ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, and star anise to your pot, or stick to the aromatics and herbs in this recipe.
As a topping for noodles or filling for tacos, intestines pair well with pickles because the sourness cuts through the fattiness of the organ. If you use the bung as a topping for noodles, simply cut the stewed pieces into thick slices and eat along with your choice of noodles, broth, and vegetables. If you prefer to eat the intestines in a dry preparation, they can be pan-fried briefly after simmering to achieve a subtly crisp char on the surface.
1 pound cleaned pork intestine
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
About 1 quart chicken stock (optional)
1 medium onion, peeled and split in half
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
Wash intestine in several changes of cold water. Soak bung in 1 quart water mixed with vinegar. Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Add intestine to pot and boil for 10 minutes. Drain intestine.
Return to pot and add stock (or cold water) to cover. Add onions, carrot, celery, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Season liberally with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook until intestines are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. All to cool in pot until cool enough to handle. Remove from pot and drain.
Slice on bias into slices about 1/3-inch thick. Serve as-is in noodle soups. Alternatively, heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Add sliced intestine and cook until lightly browned and crisp on both sides, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt. Serve in tacos or eat on its own with a squeeze of lime.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23g||30%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||54%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|