The Chef: Abraham Conlon (Fat Rice) The Challenger: Jake Bickelhaupt (Sous Rising) The Ingredient: Pig uterus
“You thought bacon was a hot trend?” Abraham Conlon asks. “Uterus—it’s going to sweep the fucking nation, man.”
Pig uterus, he says, tastes like pork intestine or tripe. But what’s distinctive about it is its texture, which he compares to pig ear or wood ear mushroom. “It’s this crispy resilience and then a yielding kind of crunch that happens. This is a commitment,” he says. “There’s a pleasure of the teeth piercing the—whatever it is—and feeling the texture in your teeth. When you eat something like this, you have to really . . . enjoy even the sound that it makes inside of your mouth.
“You didn’t know what you were getting into with this shit,” he adds.
Conlon points out that many textures considered weird in this country are much appreciated elsewhere. In other countries, he says, “There’s more focus on use of the entire animal and the different textures that animal provides.” In southeast Asia in particular, taste has as much to do with aroma and texture as it does with flavor.
He ended up doing two preparations of the uterus: “I wanted to show the right way and the wrong way to do it,” he said. “I didn’t want to just braise the hell out of it and deep-fry it and have that be my dish. But that is one of the ways we’re going to cook it”—the wrong way.
Accordingly, Conlon braised and deep-fried the organ, then put a twist on the preparation, dusting the crispy brown innards with powdered sugar and cinnamon to make pig uterus funnel cake.
Asked if it tasted good, he said, “Yeah! Does bacon taste good with maple syrup? Same shit. It tastes like funnel cake, and then you’re like, oh, it’s porky.”
The right way to cook pig uterus, Conlon said, is to stir-fry it with vegetables. First he soaked it in water for a couple days, blanched it, and marinated it in water mixed with shaoxing wine, ginger slices, and scallion—which he said “pulls some of the funkiness off, pulls the bloody flavor out.” He then trimmed it into little macaroni-shaped half moons and stir-fried it with scallions, red pepper, Thai chiles, celery, tamarind pulp, turmeric, pork stock, and a Macanese-style shrimp paste they make in-house.
The operation, performed in an enormous wok over high flame, went quickly, and after just a minute or two Conlon was plating the dish and topping it with cilantro. “We’ve maintained the crunch of all the vegetables, the crunch of the uteri,” he said. “I think it’s great. If people would order it, I’d probably put it on the menu.” (He’s since decided to serve it for one week, from April 11th to 18th.)
“That texture, that crunchiness, that squeakiness—that’s pleasurable to some people. That’s just a different form of texture. If we have all of our meat that’s braised or ground up and soft and pureed—there’s no fun. This is very fun. Unless you think it’s gross. Then it’s gross.”
Jonathan Zaragoza of Masa Azul, working with frog. “Not frog’s legs. Live whole frog. We’re talking skin, bones, all of it,” Conlon said. “Lots of classically trained chefs know how to cook frog’s legs, but they come in already butchered. I think the challenge there is definitely learning how to cook with the whole animal.”
Stir-fried Sang Cheong (pig uterus) with Macanese flavors
1 pound fresh pork uterus Shaoxing wine Ginger slices Smashed scallions 1 T lard 1 T Malaysian shrimp paste (or Chinese) 4 cloves sliced garlic ½ cup scallions, sliced into batons 3 Thai bird chiles, chipped 1 t turmeric ½ cup red pepper slices ½ cup celery slices 2 T tamarind pulp ½ cup pork stock Tapioca starch Cilantro Rice
Soak the pork uterus in salted water for 24 hours. Rinse well in fresh water. Blanch uterus in salted water for 30-45 seconds. Remove and shock in ice water. With scissors, cut uterus in half moon “macaronis” then cut small incisions on the curved side to look like a cockscomb or half of a pinwheel. Marinate uterus “pinwheels” in shaoxing wine, ginger slices and smashed scallions.
In a wok add one tablespoon of lard. Heat to medium and add the shrimp paste, when fragrant add garlic, scallion batons, and bird chilies. Stir-fry until fragrant. Immediately add drained uterus and turmeric. Stir-fry until uterus begins to plump. Immediately add red pepper and celery. Toss and continue to stir-fry over high heat for 30 seconds. Add tamarind pulp and pork stock. Bring to a boil. Thicken the sauce with a small amount of tapioca starch slurry. Transfer to a plate and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and stems. Serve immediately with rice. Enjoy the snappy-chewy but yielding texture!
Pig Uterus “Funnel Cake”
1 pound fresh pork uterus Ginger slices Cinnamon stick Oil (for deep-frying) Powdered cinnamon Powdered sugar
Soak pork uterus in salted water for 24 hours. Rinse well in fresh water. Blanch uterus in salted water for 30-45 seconds, remove and shock in ice water. Poach uterus in water with ginger slices, a little salt, and a cinnamon stick until very tender, about two and a half hours. Remove from poaching liquid and leave to air dry on a rack. Heat oil in a wok for deep-frying. When surface moisture has dissipated, deep-fry uterus at 375 degrees F until brown and crispy. Remove from oil and dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Eat immediately.