Sunday, June 27, 2010

Taiwanese 豬血糕 (Pig's blood cake)

豬血糕 (Pig's blood cake)

豬血糕, loosely translated as pig's blood cake, isn't really a food that many in Taiwan actually think that much of. It's a throwback to yesteryear (as proof of that, my parents talk about it as a food they loved to eat in their childhood... and they're old as sin). As such, because it doesn't really get much love amongst Asian kids, and because a lot of foreigners find it 'strange,' less and less vendors are selling it, even at night markets. This makes me really sad. Before I go on a tirade about how everyone should rally to their local 豬血糕 stand and support the vendor, I should at least explain what's so special about the Taiwanese variant, and why it's worth trying.

Pig's blood cake in the box

The owner of the cart insisted I photograph the inside of the wooden steamer as well. I didn't really want to, but he gave me a death stare that I found hard to refuse.

So what is this black crap on a stick, and why should you care? Taiwanese blood pudding is different from that served in Europe, fundamentally it's closer to what the Koreans call soondae. Pig's blood is boiled with sticky rice (short grain please), until it forms a matrix with the consistency of an eraser. You know which ones I'm talking about, the flexy ones that would break if you kept bending them too much. Anyway, once a giant block of it has been cooked, it's then sliced into ice cream bar sized chunks and stabbed with wooden skewers. They remain housed in a giant steamer box until some one comes and buys one, see above.

Bathed in peanut flour and cilantro

The final preparation step (and the reason why these are supremely sublime) ends with the condiments that finish the order. The pudding pop is pulled from the box and dipped inside a sauce that is the lovechild between tonkatsu sauce and pork soy broth, then rolled around in a bath of peanut flour, and finally topped with a sprinkling of cilantro, and a dabble of hot sauce (should you choose). End result is a flavor combination foreign to most Western mouths, that is probably similar to ecstasy (or so I imagine). The rice provides a textural interface that is consistent throughout, it's chewy, but it also maintains individual grains at the same time. The sauce is savory, and the feeling of pork fat from the broth is guilt inducing. The peanut flour renders a sweet complexity that only amplifies the taste of the broth, whilst the cilantro allows the mouth to take a flavor break with every bite.

I also realize that they put this stuff in soups, hot pot, and also fry it... but, the traditional kind truly is a hidden gem. I could go on about this, I really could, but I think I'll end this here. Is this gourmet dining? HA, of course not. It is something that I feel is worthy of mention though. So yeah, go support your local 豬血糕 vendor!


Ivan said...

It's similar to the Puerto Rican Morcilla (blood sausage) which is sausage stuffed with glutinous rice, spices and pig's blood. It's served steamed and it's freaking delicious!

Nicholas said...

@Danny writing isn't one of my fortes, so it's at least a little comforting that at least it's not cringe worthy :)

As far as making it... I don't know where we'll get pig's blood en masse, but my grandmother knows how to make it. It'll be like the new Baohaus, but better, and reasonably priced!

Angus said...

It actually sounds pretty appetizing once you hear what goes into it. I wonder if changing the name to something more pedestrian-friendly would make it more popular?

Nicholas said...

Angus - NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! That would cheapen the experience lol!

Rich said...

I just tried to approximate a recipe as I couldn't find one online anywhere.

I did a cup of risotto rice (no short grain to hand) to 2 cups of pigs blood (it can be bought dried from sausage-making supply companies, in the UK at least). Cooked in a thermomix - about 40 minutes, speed 1, at 100c.

My assumption from the images I've seen is that the mixture must at some point be set so I turned out the resultant slop onto a greased sheet of silver foil. The goo is VERY sticky.

As it cooled, it did firm up but didn't get close to the "eraser" like texture described above.

I've tried steaming a piece but doing so caused it to soften up again - reverting back to a sticky goo.

The picture of them in the cart shows them lying on top of one another in a steamer - if I tried that with mine they'd clump together immediately.

I wasn't sure what would go in the hot sauce so I coated a piece in a thick mixture of gochujang and pork stock before rolling in coriander and ground peanuts.

They don't taste bad, but the texture is too gummy - they've got no bite to them.

I suspect that my blood-to-rice ratio is off for a start but has anyone got any ideas on how to get a more authentic result? Anyone else tried making them?

Unknown said...

I'd guess you used way too much blood. Looking at the English blood cake recipes, it's 1 to ratio.

Unknown said...

I'd guess you used way too much blood. Looking at the English blood cake recipes, it's 1 to ratio.

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