25 (Thu) February 2021
-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!
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)