It’s time we stopped spelling offal with an ‘A’

It’s time we stopped spelling offal with an ‘A’

It might seem strange that I choose to write something on organ meats when our country (India) is going through a beefy time with muscle meats, but I absolutely despise the look of disgust that people have when I tell them some of the tastiest things we have on the menu are ears, tail, tongue, brain & neck.

Offal in India

It’s pretty much no surprise that offal has been on our plates (banana leaves) for ages. The Goan/Mangalorean Sorpotel (spiced curry of pork fat+liver+blood), Tamil Nadu’s scrambled blood- Aattu Ratha Poriyal, Hyderabadi Paya ki Nihari (lamb trotters broth), Phaypara Masala (curried lamb lungs), Calcutta khiri (cow udder) rolls, Parsi Masoor ma-jeeb (ox tongue and lentils), chaura ma khariya (trotters in black-eyed peas) Tilli Bhuna (spleen roast), amin (blood rice ginger in a bamboo shoot) — these are just a few fun things (some eaten and enjoyed; haven’t had the opportunity to try the udders)

Not to forget we got brain (bheja; fry/masala/cutlet) and balls too! — not the rocky mountain oysters kind, instead spice powered up Kapura Masala.

We know that organ meats are super tasty (otherwise they would have got knocked out of food tradition centuries ago) but for those who ask ‘are they healthy?’: if you’ve done your google search already you’d find that offal is super rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. But our ancestors knew best — consumption was restricted to ceremonies. Offal was too rich to be part of a daily diet. Whenever a sacrifice was made for a festival or celebration the whole carcass was meant to be devoured. And so it was. Hence consumption was regulated. Another offal concern is of the quality of organ meat, which should be the same concern while buying muscle meat as well.

You could trust your butcher when he says it was a happy animal, raised on grass and grain and NOT that one you saw feeding on the community garbage dump this morning. If not, buy a cow. or goat, or chicken.

Even though we’ve been swept through fantasy tenderloin, rib-eye and t-bones we should probably understand that Indian meats have a long way to go in terms of quality and grade.


This gives us a good opportunity to move beyond the muscle meat onto textures and flavours disregarded.

So let’s Eat!

Offal at Red Fork Deli

Masoor Ma Geeb (Ox tongue with spiced black lentils):

The following post by Zarine (owner, RedFork) is the perfect example of how food and memories make the best of meals:

It is said that if the food you are eating brings back memories, then the Chef’s job is done ! Yesterday, my son, the Chef, once more, brought back a flood of happy memories for me by giving me a tasting portion of MASOOR-MA-GEEB (Ox tongue with spiced black lentils).
It reminded me of Sunday afternoons at home as a young girl. Every Sunday my grandmother would get her cook to make lunch, something that would please my father, her son, and come spend the day with us. The lunch would be packed in this large vessel called a “patia” and tied with an old sheet to keep the lid firmly in place. Every Sunday would be a treat as we peered into the “Patia” to check on the day’s delight.
Any Parsi worth his salt would kill for the Masoor-Ma-Geeb at Red Fork. The Ox tongue is braised for SEVEN HOURS and is more tender than any meat I have consumed so far.
Hoping to have the brave over at Red Fork.

Oxtail Tortellini: You can’t have the tongue and not the tail.

Offal-ly Good Lamb

Piggy Pop: It’s the (y)ear of the pig, like every year should be! This bowl is definitely a possibility to share.

Pigs are fascinating creatures and it has been studied that their psychology and intelligence match that to a human three-year-old! If they interest you too, Gastropod’s podcast is definitely a must listen!

When ears are crumbed and the crackling is crunching like its Diwali, a ramekin of bright yellow sunshine huancaina is set beside that bowl of noise. The gentle aji amarillo chili will get rid of those gloomy days!

@amitvarma : Kheema, Bheja, Politics

I was dining yesterday with some friends at the excellent Bombay Canteen, and I remarked at one point: ‘This kheema bheja ghotala is sub-par today. Too much kheema, not enough bheja.’

And Peter Griffin responded, ‘That’s the state of our political discourse today.’

Such it goes.

Posted by Amit Varma in India | Politics

Hopefully, this discourse goes beyond its current narrow frame and gets us thinking about the cultural, economical, sustainable value nose to tail eating has on our multi-cultural food system.

As said before, we must acquaint ourselves with this delicious heritage; Eating is the first step.