12.051 Battle: Blood!

12.051

25 (Thu) February 2021

Seonji Guk

3.5

by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

For the third installment of GMTD Battles! (see previously 12.014 Battle: Lamb!; 12.026 Battle: Duck!), we engaged in a blood bath.  In the comments on the duck post, GK had randomly – apropos of nothing apparent – mentioned his intent to make Swedish blood pudding, which prompted me to propose blood as the theme of our next battle.

This time, we are joined by long-time GMTD reader, Number One Canadian Fan NH.  Welcome!

 

Seonji Guk

by me

According to my kindergarten level of fluency, the Korean language uses three terms for blood: 1) “pi (피),” the original Korean word, which refers to blood in most common contexts; 2) “hyeolaek (혈액),” derived from the Chinese “血液 (blood liquid),” which refers to blood in technical contexts; and 3) “seonji (선지),” of uncertain origin (Naver dictionary simply states a definition), which refers to the clotted blood of animals used for food.

In Korean cuisine, as far as I’m aware, seonji is consumed primarily in two ways: 1) as a seasoning in sundae (blood sausage) (see for example 1.048 Sundae & Ddeokbokki); and 2) as a component in seonji guk (blood soup) (see for example 4.110 Seonji Guk Bab) – both of which are somewhat fringe (not everyone likes them) yet widely available (easily found by those that do).

Prior to this endeavor, I had never encountered blood of either animal as a raw ingredient.  When I asked the butcher at our local supermarket, he advised me to find a wet market where pigs/cows are slaughtered, and the organs and blood and other by-products are processed and sold.

In Garak Mall – one of Seoul’s largest traditional markets, located near home – in the southern corner of basement level 2, adjacent to the loading docks, far from the crowds of mainstream customers, the livestock by-product (chuksan busanmul) (축산부산물) section discreetly goes about its business; it’s so hidden away, probably on purpose, that it took me 30 minutes to find.
The premises were bizarrely immaculate – like an unrealistic movie set – nary a speck of animal tissue beyond the tables and bins.
I stopped at the first stall upon entry, which had cow’s blood for sale.
Preparing cow daechang (large intestines) (see for example 6.017 Not So Awful After All).

The proprietor scooped about a kilo of blood into a plastic bag and handed it to me.  I asked her how much.  “1,000 won.”  I was taken aback.  She could’ve said 100,000 won, and I would’ve believed her.  It was the strangest and cheapest ingredient that I’ve ever purchased.

The blood was kept out on the floor in what appeared to be used paint cans lined with plastic.

The smell of the place was indescribably weird and complex and gross, beyond the bounds of normal human sensation.  I could only imagine how bad it would’ve been in the past, without the careful cleaning, without climate control.

After a few minutes, surrounded by the gore and body parts, my head began to spin, like I was in a nightmare, or a serial killer movie.

I was grateful for what I hope to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Through a quick chat with the proprietor, I learned that the stalls in the busanmul market are specialized, each dealing exclusively with cow products or pig products.
Different stalls also specialize in parts of the animal, such as organs or bones or skins – these are cow skulls.
I also learned that pig’s blood is used for exclusively for sundae, and cow’s blood for seonji guk, never vice versa.
From the pig stall next door, where the blood was stored in a refrigerator, I purchased a bag for 2,000 won, which suddenly seemed very expensive, after purchasing cow’s blood for half that price.

The challenge, as originally stated, was to make a dish of pig’s blood.

Having purchased both pig’s blood and cow’s blood, uncertain about the quality of the former, I was left with the latter, so I called an audible to scrap my initial plan for blutnudeln (pasta infused with pig’s blood) and improvise seonji guk instead.

The pig’s blood smelled funky and looked strange, sorta mottled, which I took to be a sign of not-freshness.

The blood was not fully liquid but delicately clotted, like silken tofu.

I brought a large pot of salted water to a roiling boil, ladled in thin scoops of blood, turned off the heat, then let the chunks cook slowly in the hot water for 30 minutes until they were firm yet tender.

I did not adjust the color of this photo, nor the featured photo above; the cow’s blood was amazingly bright red, almost neon in vibrancy, which I took to be a sign of freshness.

Side Story: When I opened the bag and placed the cow’s blood in the bowl, my dog went nuts, barking and whining and running around the kitchen and slamming into the cabinets like he was possessed.  The scent must’ve triggered an instinct.  I had been considering to give him some but then decided not to, lest it awaken in him a primal bloodlust.  I seem to recall reading something when I was a kid about zoos not feeding blood to lions because it’ll make them go feral and attack the zookeepers.

A quick review of on-line recipes for seonji guk suggested no consistent approach, so I decided to wing it.

Bomdong (봄동), a type of bitter winter cabbage.
To amp up the base flavor of the broth: beef bone stock + beef bouillon + shaved beef brisket.
For seasonings: soju + Yeondu + spicy pork bulgogi sauce + doenjang soup base + lots more doenjang (not pictured).

Recalling prior experiences, I made a spicy doenjang-based beef soup with cabbage and radish.  I added the chunks of seonji at the very end so as to minimize blood flavor in the broth, anticipating that the boys would prefer the soup without.

The soup, as a spicy doenjang-based beef soup with cabbage and radish, turned out great.  Deep and rich, a bit of kick, very satisfying and filling.

The seonji was okay.  It didn’t have much flavor, just a slight metallic aftertaste.  The texture was soft and crumbly, more tender than I recalled, likely because I was careful not to overcook it.  Everyone had a taste and set it aside.  All that work for a few nibbles.

I’d like to think that someone who likes seonji would’ve enjoyed the dish in its entirety.


 

Sundae Bokkeum

by LJY

LJY: Store-bought sundae (순대), homemade sauce.  The glass noodles didn’t make it into the mise en place photo because I forgot about it.

LJY: Pretty good!  Perfect anju to go with soju.


 

 Blodpudding

by GK

GK: “Blodpudding” (blood pudding) is a traditional Swedish dish I have wanted to make for a long time but I have not gotten hold of the blood.  Blodpudding is actually pretty popular in Sweden, especially among students, since it’s one of the cheapest things you can buy (factory made) in the store.  My parents refuse to eat it since they have bad memories eating it too often during their university years. I have never met anyone who have actually made it themselves from scratch.

GK: The recipe called for pig’s blood (0.5 litres, but since I got a container of 1 litre, I doubled the recipe), as well as apple, red onion (both finely minced), lard (in small dices), syrup, ginger, pepper, clove, majoram, salt, melted butter, beer and rye flour.

GK: All of it was minced into a batter which was poured into oven forms and put in a water bath in the oven, at 180 degrees for about an hour. Since I found the consistency to be a little too “loose” I later but it in the oven for another 30 minutes.

GK: After this, I made a couple of slices of the pudding and fried it in butter in a pan. Served with lingonberry jam, apple fried in sugar, and pork slices, and milk of course. To be able to compare I also fried some slices of “factory made” blood pudding.  I have included pictures of the blood puddings before and after frying. I guess you can guess which ones are my own and which are from the factory.

GK: I found my own pudding to be a little bit to loose in it’s consistency. Maybe I should have used more flour, or less beer in the batter. Or I just need to fry the slices better in the pan. It had more taste than the factory made stuff at least.


 

 Pan-Fried Blood Pudding on Toast with Arugula and Apples + Dinuguan

by NH

NH: I ended up making two things.

I got some blood pudding at the grocery store. The nice thing about living in Quebec is that they aren’t too squeamish here about the edible odds and ends.  Simply sliced, panfried in butter, and served on toasted bread with arugula and apple slices (sorry, I know you hate fruit in your food). I topped them with a runny egg before digging in. Tasted mostly like a mealy sausage, with strong flavours of allspice and a hint of iron. A bit messy but overall tasty.

NH: That one seemed like a bit of a cop-out, since the sausage was premade, so I also tried to get my hands on some fresh pork blood. The Asian grocer was seemingly all out, with only cooked pork blood cubes remaining, but as I circled around I spotted a lone container shoved unceremoniously amongst the refrigerated bokchoy. This clearly being a sign from a higher power, I had to buy it.

NH: I purchased some pork belly and shoulder and made dinuguan. Didn’t get a shot of the cooking process unfortunately, but it was basically just vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, sugar, ginger, garlic, and onions. Also tossed a few green chilies in. I definitely wasn’t attentive enough with the blood and some of it ended up coagulating into little chunks, but overall it turned out pretty good.

NH: I also made a curry and a zucchini and fennel stir fry, in case the dish turned out inedible.

(KH: IKEA dish rag!)

NH: I’m lucky to have a partner who’s willing to subject himself to all the odd culinary experiments I undertake…he enjoyed it, which isn’t too surprising I suppose, given his love for salt and vinegar flavours (his favourite chip flavour, as it so happens). Personally, the vinegary tang was a bit much for me.


 

SUMMARY

In addition to the audacity of the theme, I am so proud of the scope of participation and diversity of outputs represented in the post, a unique milestone in GMTD history.

COURAGE AWARD: Regardless of the dish, I deserve accolade for what I went through to acquire the blood.  That hellish/ghoulish ordeal will forever be one of my favorite food stories to tell.

ACCESSIBILITY AWARD:  LJY had initially declined to participate in this battle, presumably so as to avoid dealing with raw blood, but I suggested that she make sundae bokkeum as a compromise.  Sundae is a very accessible way of eating blood, just a hint of blood flavor among many seasonings in the sausage.  Moreover, a flown-blown stir-fry is a powerful, dynamic, and tasty dish.  In a buffet spread with all the other blood dishes, this dish probably would sell out first.

UDDA AWARD:  From an Eastern/Asian/Korean perspective – maybe from any non-Swedish perspective – GK’s bludpudding seems wildly bizarre in composition and construction.  Lard, really!? (Incidentally, in line with a recent discussion in an unrelated post about knife work, the pieces of lard in the photo are not “small dices” – they’re big-ass chunks of pig fat.)  Syrup, really!?  Beer, really!?  Frying the pudding slices in butter, really!?  And serving them with sugar-fried apples and lingonberry jam, really!?  Sorry, though some of these steps might make sense per se, they seem weird when applied to blood and especially in combination with each other.  But I did like the little side story about his parents.

HAUTE AWARD:  With her first foray into GMTD Battles!, NH presented the most visually appealing dish, well-conceived, well-constructed.  The toasted bread would seem to provide a nice firm countertexture to the crumbliness of the pudding.  The peppery hints of the arugula would pair nicely with the metallic earthiness of the blood, while providing a touch of freshness.   I guess apples are a thing with pig’s blood??   The overall presentation is gorgeous, effortlessly elegant, even the plate looks like something from a casual French bistro.  I would be intrigued to try this dish.

SHAME ON KF AWARD:  I had invited KF – my lifelong goddaughter of sorts, who now has her own Instagram feed on her daily meals (i.e., she cooks and photographs the food and publishes the images regularly) – to join this battle.  Being Filipina, and living in Manila, dinuguan would seem like an obvious and easy choice for her.  But no, she copped out, citing some lame excuse about pig’s blood only being available early in the morning due to high demand, too much hassle (see COURAGE AWARD, supra).  As such, I was pleasantly surprised to find that NH had made dinuguan instead.  I would very much appreciate for NH to explain further in the comment section how she was inspired to make the dish, which I don’t think is very famous outside of the Philippines (or is it?), and I don’t think NH is Filipina (or is she?).  Incidentally, I never tried dinuguan in the 6.5 years that I live in Manila, even though it was a regular item at the cafeteria – shame on me.  The higher power was GMTD.

Anyway, we are all winners!

Up next, BATTLE: CHICKEN CINQUAIN.

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

6 thoughts on “12.051 Battle: Blood!

  1. A very interesting post. I especially liked the recollections of the nightmarish trip to the market, and the thought of a random comment from me being to origin of it….

    Some comments about your comment on my dish:

    1) Yes, those cubes of lard are not “small” by any comparison. In my defense I thought the lard would somehow “dissolve” after being cooked in the oven for more than an hour. The reason for that being that “factory made” blood pudding is completely even, with no pieces of lard… We I have researched some other recipe I have discovered that most other don’t include it (lard). I’m not sure what it actually is supposed to bring to the dish…
    2) Using beer for cooking is not unheard of, I’m pretty sure you have done it as well (in one of our cooking exchanges at least)
    3) The same goes for frying in butter. Or is butter frying not normally done in American cooking? (I can understand it’s not normal for Korean food). I can also note that NH also fried her pudding in butter. AND served it with apples as well. I guess there could be some similarities between Swedish and Quebec cuisine?
    4) Not to be pedantic (or maybe I want to be): “none of those thing individually or in combination makes any sense…”. Does that mean that not even lingonberry jam individually would make any sense?

    Regardless, I’m glad to have finally tried a dish I have wanted to try making for a long time. If I want to have another go, I know what I can try to improve on…

    1. 1) i’ve never really worked with lard, but i think lard is pork fat that’s been rendered down into liquid, which turns solid/white at room temperature or colder, and re-melts when heated in a dish. so i think the problem is that you were just using chunks of unrendered pork fat, not lard, which would’ve dissolved.

      4) thanks for pointing out my poor writing, which I’ve redrafted in the post. i was trying to say that any of those ingredients seemed sorta strange in application with blood – I suppose anything seems strange with blood – and in combination with each other. i’m still getting used to lingonberry jam as a topping for savory dishes (e.g. meatballs), so yes it seems strange as a topping for blood pudding.

      Good luck if you want to try this again. As for me, it was a once in a lifetime thing. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  2. Wow this one was an exciting battle! Seeing how your trip to the cow parts market went, I’m sure I could not have found a place to buy cow or pig blood, even if I had the appetite to try to cook it. I always think of Koreans and other Asians in general as being the overly resourceful with using all parts of animals, but cool to know I am wrong! BTW your 봄동 looks beautiful – I saw an episode of a Korean cooking show using it. I think your seonji guk would taste awesome (minus seonji).

    What’s our next battle ingredient??

  3. I am totally open to suggestions for the next ingredient.

    Gustaf and I had discussed the idea of cooking a whole chicken by its individual parts (wings, legs, thighs, breasts, carcass), which I would be keen to do, though it would require 5 dishes. if

    anyone proposes an ingredient, or votes in favor of the whole chicken idea, that’ll be the next theme.

      1. so be it, by GK’s secondment, Battle: Chicken Cinquain is confirmed!

        acquire 1 whole chicken and disassemble the chicken into 5 parts: wings, legs, thighs, breasts, carcass. please take a photo of the disassembled bird. make 5 dishes with each of the parts. please take photos of each dish.

        for me, this battle presents 3 challenges: 1) how to use up the whole bird, no waste; 2) how to highlight the different parts of the chicken, 3) how to create 5 different dishes that hold together as a single meal.

        if too difficult to do it all at once, it’s okay to do the dishes separately.

        let me know if you’re interested to participate, so I can wait for your submissions before compiling the post.

        no deadline, but please aim for the next couple weeks.

        Allez cuisine!

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