IMBB #12: Lamb Fries and Beef Tongue
February 19, 2005

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BigtongueThere aren't a lot of foods that I dislike.  Oh, I've pretended to be horrified at the thought of eating, say, human placenta, but when it comes right down to it, I'd probably dig right in, if it was prepared well. Rebecca and I racked our brains for awhile and the only thing we could find that it disturbs me to eat is “Jello”.  I find jello to be deeply insulting.  It hurts me to be served jello.  I am not sure why.

That having been said, there are plenty of ingredients that I have been afraid to work with in the kitchen, mostly because I've never had them prepared for me, so even if I have a recipe to work with, I have no idea what the end result should look (or taste) like.

When I heard that the theme of IMBB #12 would be “Is My Blog Taboo”, I figured it might be a good time to take on some of those challenges.  Oh, sure, I could have wimped out and done oxtail, which I work with all the time, or beef cheeks, which I made a few weeks ago.  But the real question was this:  did I have the balls to take some risks and do something new instead?  Well, I didn't.  But I knew where to get some.

Lamb Fries

Montana Tendergroin.  Rocky Mountain Oysters.  Barnyard Jewels, Cowboy Caviar.  Swinging Beef.  Bull testicles got all the cool names.  The little rams got the shaft. One thing I know for sure, though, is that the “lamb fry” name has got to go.  It's not really fair to anyone.  It's deceptive marketing, for sure.  Might as well rename durian the “Sun Fruit” or something.


Testicles – whatever their origin – are not upscale food.  Most recipes that I have found are quite straightforward.  Unfortunately they are even briefer than they are simple, and omit certain details that someone who has never cooked up a batch of testes might want to know.  Here's an actual example:

Blanch, strip, drain, and dry the fries. Cut thinly.  Bread and fry.

Whoa, wait a minute!  That's not a recipe, it's an intention.  Here's the process I used, learned from what I could glean from the Internet as well as a brief process of trial and error:


  • Blanch testes for 5 minutes.  This solidifies the insides enough that you can strip the outer membrane. (Before this, they feel like water balloons.)  Make sure the water is only barely simmering, as too much of a rolling boil can cause the balls to explode. (Ouch!)

  • Peel off the thick outer membrane using a very sharp knife.  This is the most difficult and annoying part of the whole process.  Start at the Hole That Nature Made – that will make things easier for you.

  • Cut into thin slices.  This is another reason you'll need a sharp knife, as the insides are still somewhat gelatinous at this point.

  • Marinate for at least one hour.  A simple vinaigrette makes a good marinade, or try something using beer for more cultural authenticity.

  • Pat the slices dry.  Salt and pepper them.  Dip them in flour, then into a (beaten) egg, then into panko or bread crumbs.  Shallow fry them until the breading is a deep golden brown.  Serve immediately.

There you have it.  Like most deep fried entities, these are best eaten immediately after being made.  And you know what?  I don't know that I'll be making these again, but all in all, they weren't too bad.  You can bread and fry anything and it tastes pretty much the same.  It's definitely the most approachable way to eat testicles.  Just don't eat too many; you'll spoil your appetite for the tongue.


Beef Tongue in a Rich Tomato Sauce.

There's an old joke that goes like this:

A guy went into a restaurant and asked 'What's the special of the day?'
'Beef tongue,' the waiter replied.
'Ugh!', the guy said, 'That's disgusting!  I won't eat anything that comes out of a cow's mouth.  Fry me up a couple of eggs!'

I think we're all in agreement that people's food preferences are pretty arbitrary.  You must admit, though, that a beef tongue can be pretty formidable to someone who has never prepared one before – or seen it prepared.  I seriously had no idea what to expect.  For instance, I assumed that the whole of the tongue was a dense, solid meat, kind of like – and I say this with full awareness of how stupid it makes me sound – kind of like a bologna.

In fact the pink part is just a piece of skin, and just like many other pieces of skin, what lies underneath is a thin layer of goop (technical term) and then a muscle.  What you eat is the muscle.

As you might imagine from all of the talking that cows do,  the muscle is quite lean and tough and must be subjected to a long braising or boiling.  After that, though, things change. The tip of the tongue is made up of long muscle strand like brisket, only it's softer and more tender than any brisket ever could be.  The back of the tongue is denser and more solid, but still has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is difficult to describe.  It's little wonder that Mexicans (the real ones, not the mythical ones that made the menu at your neighborhood Taco Casa) use this meat in burritos.  It's miles above, say, ground beef.


1 2 to 3 lb beef tongue
4c cider, wine, beer, stock, or combination thereof.
3 cloves garlic, whole
Fresh herbs.

6-7 cloves Garlic, minced
1 onion
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 soy sauce
2 c beer – preferably Strong Brown ale or Belgian-style
2-3 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp molasses
4 pcs thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
3 tbsp fresh tarragon
1 14 oz can tomatoes

  • Wash the tongue.  You can scrub it, or you can blanch it in boiling water with a cup of vinegar added to it, like I did.
  • Rinse out pot or pressure cooker.  Add tongue, 4 cups of cooking liquid (as above), fresh herbs, and garlic cloves.  Braise for 1 hours (pressure cooker) or 2 hours (normal pot).
  • Towards the end of this time, fry the bacon in a medium-sized pot and reserve it, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.  Saute the onion in the bacon fat until it is nearly translucent.  Add the garlic and saute.  Add the tomato paste and saute until it browns slightly.  (You need to be done cooking the tongue by this time if you're using the pressure cooker.)  Add the can of tomatoes, 2 ½ cups of the braising liquid, the bay leaf, the soy sauce, the beer, the tamarind, the molasses and the tarragon.  Let cook for 20 minutes.  Puree the sauce in  small batches in a blender or food processor.  Thicken the sauce if you like.
  • Remove the outer layer of skin from the tongue.  It should slough off very easily now.  Cut the tongue into slices.  Add the tongue slices and the bacon lardons to the sauce. Cook 10 minutes.  Serve.

One caveat:  the part that I am least sure about is the braising time.  Recipes I consulted to compare with have wildly differing cooking times.  I actually braised for about an hour and a half in a pressure cooker, and I thought that was a bit much – the outer edges of the tongue were a bit mushy.  Maybe they get this way no matter what.  Regardless, the meat should be pretty much done by the time you take it out of its initial braise, so if the meat at the back of the tongue isn't tender and succulent, braise it for another half hour and check it again.  If you do try this recipe and have a different experience, drop me an email and let me know.

Other Resources:

If you were wowed by the thought eating lamb testicles, you love boobies, and you live in or near Montana or are willing to drive there on your Harley or in your motor home, you should check out the nation's one and only (as far as I'm aware) Testicle Festival.  Lots of “fries” of various kinds for you to eat, and for some reason, while you're there, women of varying degrees of attractiveness will take their tops off!  Must be all that testosterone in the food.

If, on the other hand, the thought of eating human placenta gets you going, there are many resources for you to check out.  (Apparently, it's far more popular than testicles and boobies.)  Also  be sure to check out the hilarious Straight Dope column on the subject.  And don't worry, there's still somewhat of a likelihood that you'll get flashed while waiting in line for your placenta -- I hear those new mothers wear some pretty skimpy outfits when going into delivery.  Whoa, mama!

February 19, 2005 in best, exotic, main_dishes, recipes | Permalink


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You are a much braver person than I. And I definatly agree that Breading and deep Frying makes everything taste pretty much the same.

Posted by: Christine at Feb 23, 2005 8:21:21 AM

Great post...and that clever!

Posted by: Barbara at Feb 23, 2005 11:16:57 AM

That took balls! Not only was this entertaining, it lifted one of my own taboos -- I'm left with a craving for the tongue dish. I never thought I'd want to eat tongue, or any of the other weird dishes my Sicilian parents ate with zest (goat's head, for one), but now I want to try it and I want the adventure of cooking it myself!

Posted by: Mia at Feb 23, 2005 2:39:03 PM

I ...... just ....... can't ........ get ........ beyond ........ that ........ first ....... photo.

Sorry, that just doesn't look like tongue to me.



Posted by: Elise Bauer at Feb 23, 2005 11:56:36 PM

Fantastic post! I agree with Elise about the's seriously disturbing. It's making me play nervously with my own tongue just thinking about it!

Posted by: Meg at Feb 24, 2005 1:43:16 AM

Tongue, yeah right. This blog just got rated R :-)

Posted by: viewer at Mar 11, 2005 8:24:48 AM

Wow! I thought I'd logged on to a site that was going to get me fired.

Very brave!

Posted by: Liz at Mar 11, 2005 12:47:08 PM

Wonderful! The tongue photo had me in hysterics. I actually quite like tongue (it isn't difficult to find here in the UK so I'm obviously not the only one) but have never been brave enough to try testicles. Kudos on a great post.

Posted by: Christina at Mar 18, 2005 6:47:58 PM

You are a brave, brave person. That is an amazing photo (the first one) and a particularly off-beat meal. Bless you for being so daring. I am in awe. (A little creeped out, but in awe)Bravo! I always say "Don't yuck someone's yum," and I must admit I am thinking it now.

Posted by: Rachael at Mar 18, 2005 10:18:52 PM

That's a great and disturbing photo. I think you should enter it in the IMBB photo contest!

Posted by: megwoo at Mar 28, 2005 3:38:51 PM

LOVE THIS BLOG!! im for a blog that tries out new things. me being chinese and been to many odd places have tried many good (and some bad) things.

First i must defend the toungue. It's an awesome peice of meat, It's great just salted, skewered and grilled over nice charcoal pit.

Second. Why not get the penis while you're at it? In some chinese Noodle shops they have bull penis wonton noodle soup. Don't ask, never seen it in person, but its true they say.

Posted by: Dudley at May 18, 2005 2:29:54 AM

oh my, that photo looks so... so... obscene!

Posted by: josie at Jun 19, 2005 10:23:23 AM

There's another quote- I won't taste anything that could taste me back.

lol but I'd be lying if I said that after your description I wasn't at least curious. I mean, I have a mother that eats chicken feet so it takes a lot for me to go -Whoa-. But the tongue photog put me over the edge. A great macro and fantasticly abstract somehow.


Posted by: Born Lippy at Jul 6, 2005 5:14:39 AM

I must say, you are one heck of a writer! It's also funny that up until about a month ago I never experimented with different meats but a southern uncle of mine turned me on to pork fries. I LOVED them. So I got the recipe and once I cooked them, so did everyone else. People who darn near hurled at the thought of it loved them. I went to an authentic mexican restaurant and tried out the lengua, as no one in the world loves a steak more than myself, and they told me the lengua was better than any cut of steak I could imagine. I tried it and I bought my first tongue today and have been searching for recipes. I havent read all of your blog but I am a graphic and web designer and would be interested in starting a forum for people like us. If you are interested let me know!

Posted by: Stradford Stone II at Nov 5, 2005 2:09:08 PM

Speaking as a "real" Mexican, when refering to the comment on the tongue recipe.... We do enjoy beef tongue and have many wonderful recipes, from tacos to haute cuisine. If you are interested, email me and I will gladly share, you won't be dissapointed (if you like tongue, that is...)

Posted by: Q.B. at May 19, 2006 3:25:52 PM

Speaking as a "real" Mexican, when refering to the comment on the tongue recipe.... We do enjoy beef tongue and have many wonderful recipes, from tacos to haute cuisine. If you are interested, email me and I will gladly share, you won't be dissapointed (if you like tongue, that is...)

Posted by: Q.B. at May 19, 2006 3:26:21 PM

Thank goodness I found this; I had an excellent cold braised tongue while I was in Argentina (Land of All That is Beef). So I bought a tongue and have been searching for recipes. Sure do appreciate all your details!

Posted by: LR at Jun 28, 2006 4:32:22 PM

Wellllll Maybe if you took the picture of the beef tongue from the side it might help - LOL I'm from the heart land of the country, and grew up on beef tongue. It's the most delicate taste But after you've first cooked it then let it set in the fridge over night. It makes the most wonderful & sumptuous sandwiches you've ever tasted. I'm surprised that it isn't more popular. It's so much better than patee`(?)

Posted by: John Jones at Jul 19, 2006 8:53:52 PM

I LOVE tongue. I don't even want to share. My husband can take it or leave, I just don't share. And a tongue sandwich the next day is the best lunch meat ever.
I cook mine in my Nesco cookware. I just simmer it in beef broth and that is it.....for about 3 to 4 hours. I turn it over every hour. Then let it cool down, and skin it. Just run the knife down the front side and it will break apart and you can skin it easily. The take the knife and cut away the membranes under the tongue. Slice away on the diagonal and enjoy with some mustard.
I love that photo............
maybe with your permission, I will use that photo
and start a yahoo tongue recipe group. ?????
Let me know

Posted by: Linda Roberts at Oct 9, 2006 12:20:20 PM

I've never eaten tongue, but my boyfriend seems to love it. He said his favorite is tongue in peanut butter sauce. So hear I am looking for a way of preparing tongue and to get an idea of what it tastes like to see if I would dare to eat it.

I think I might... it doesn't sound so bad.

By the way QB... my boyfriend is Mexican as well... and i woudn't mind getting some authentic mexican recipes... could you help me out here? ;)

email me and let me know. I see sights that say mexican but i'm not sure if they're the real deal.

Posted by: Trudi at May 20, 2007 10:13:45 AM

LOVE the photo!

I did not grow up eating beef tongue, but my first job was in the SF mission district where I got hooked on lengua burritos! Later, I decided that I could learn to cook it myself. It's a little expensive here, a nice mid-size tongue runs you about ten dollars, but I cook it in my slow cooker with onion, garlic and spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. After it has been sitting in its own personal hot tub all day, it is verrrrrry tender. Last night I served it as a company dish to guests with saffron rice, sliced tomatoes and broccoli. I probably wouldn't spring it on someone born in the United States, but these people seemed to really like it. Today I had tongue and tomato sandwiches... tongue is a rich-tasting, soft meat when cooked. Now I wonder what else my mom never cooked for me!

Posted by: Kelly at Aug 10, 2007 7:03:00 PM

I have to thank you I just bought a whole beef and asked for the tongue, heart and liver, wanting to be adventurous, but still haven't figured out a great recipe. Not sure if I'll like it the tongue since I don't like gamey meat.. and am not sure if "rich" means gamey. so not sure if tongue will make me happy or sad..but I'm up for the adventure, by the way.. the photo made me blush.. :)

Posted by: Latty lady at Dec 30, 2007 3:27:23 PM

The other I went for a road trip with my boys and some real authentic mexican soft tacos. We had the beef, chicken and tongue. Wow my favorite was the tongue taco. I am now searching for the recipe. Thank you for the recipe but if you happen to have a recipe for tongue taco I would really appreciate it. Thanks

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