Blood and Guts

Blood and Guts.

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Sounds like a tagline for a horror movie!

In fact, its about two sets of dishes.

  1. Duck Blood Larb (Larb Luert Pét)
  2. Beef Innards (Tripe and Offal)

Some viewers may find some of the photos a little disturbing (hence they begin after the “read the rest of this entry” link). Also, I have decided to separate this post in to two parts. Blood, then Guts.

I pondered quite a lot about whether to post about these dishes or not. However, I believe that they should be recorded and written down as these dishes exist and are a part of our food culture. If you are squeamish, then I would advise against reading the rest of the post.

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Blood.

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It all began one sunny afternoon away from the kitchens. A day off. A drink. The team and I were talking about food, like we always do. We talked about how we miss foods from our home towns.

You have to remember that we live in the Spanish countryside without access to all the rich Asiatic herbs, spices and other ingredients that some people are lucky enough to have or can purchase nearby. A fresh Papaya is really a treat for the team,  they only ever get to eat a “tum mak houng” when somebody visits them from abroad. Only a few years ago, they started to harvest fresh chillies, grown in the back yard. Before then they got their “hot fix” from dried chillies. Things are looking up though, this year they have grown some nice Thai Basil and other herbs, especially Lemongrass.

Reminiscing about food over a few cold beers brought us to the subject of Duck Blood. To be precise, about Duck Blood Larb. I personally don’t really care for the dish. I have seen it served many times and have even uploaded a video from LCTV in a previous post. Going over the list of ingredients I realised that with a few alterations, we could actually make it here.

Action: Reaction. All I had to do was find a couple of live ducks.

Some team members began to salivate over the idea of eating “freshly squeezed” duck blood.

The further the afternoon went on, more dishes were discussed until we got to Cow Tripes. A load of “goodies” from the inside of the cow. The stuff “people throw away”. Yummy.

Action: Reaction. All I had to do was find a cow that had recently been slaughtered. “Fresh as possible” my team said.

A few days later I got a call from a friend who had heard my plight for live ducks. I had managed to evade the question of what I was going to do with them.

A little online research in to the dish uncovered some reports of deaths in Vietnam concerning the H5N1 Virus (Avian Flu) where a very similar dish is said to have been consumed by the victims shortly before falling ill. Scary stuff.

However, I was intrigued as to how other people prepared this dish. There is always a different version of every recipe.

I quick browse on some Asian on-line forums regarding the different recipes and characteristics of the dish only reaffirmed to me that some forums were just a place for ignorant people to post (or bitch, make fun of or verbally abuse each other) about something they know nothing about.

An online search for videos not only resulted in our LCTV Video, but also a few homemade videos of people preparing the dish. But none of these other videos explained anything about the techniques or ingredients.

The usage of blood in food is not an uncommon practice. Blood Sausages are very popular in many cuisines (think English Black Pudding, French Boudin Noir, Spanish Morcilla, German Blutwurst etc…). Other solid or semi solid blood dishes involve what the Chinese call “Blood Tofu” which is widely enjoyed throughout Asia. This coagulated blood which can come from various animals such as pork, beef, chicken etc… is used in stir fries and soups. However, the colour of the blood used in these dishes is somewhat a dark, almost burgundy-brownish in colour.

The blood served in duck larb retains its bright vibrant redness, which can be off-putting to some. The texture of the blood depends on the recipe, it can be liquid, slightly congealed or firm.

One sunny afternoon, the two guests of honour arrive to the team´s house.

Needless to say, if you want the duck blood, you are going to have to bleed it. :blink:

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In the past I have observed some cooks making the animal intoxicated before extracting the blood. Pouring some whisky down its throat. This makes sense as alcohol thins the blood, which in this case would allow it to bleed out faster. I doubt that its final drink  ritual…

Some cooks slit the throat, but I have seen more and more cooks extract the blood from under the wings as we had done.

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It takes two cooks actually, one to hold the duck, the other to make the incision and collect the blood. In the bowl are a few stems of lemongrass with fish sauce diluted with water. The collected blood needs to be stirred so that it mixes with the other liquids and not congeal. The amount of fish sauce used at this stage is very important. Too much and the finished dish will be too salty and require further diluting. Some places that serve this dish intentionally use too much fish sauce, which means that later in the recipe more water needs to be added, hence resulting in more quantity, which equals more dishes and more profit. The drawback is that these dishes are always bland and lacking in taste and texture.

We collected the blood from both of the ducks and stored them somewhere cool and away from the army of flies that had gathered. Its best to work as quickly as possible.

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The next step is to get plucking. “Plucking Hell!!!”. 😆

Plunging the duck in to warm water helps make the removal of the feathers easier.

The larger of the ducks will have its meat used for the actual larb. Its bones will be used to flavour a soup. The smaller duck will be BBQed.

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The ducks are washed down.

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Most of the innards of both ducks will be used in the larb.

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Everyone loves a piece of liver and heart…

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The duck destined for the the BBQ is marinated for an hour or so with herbs.

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The head has been split open and is considered a delicacy.

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The livers, hearts, gizzards, intestines and stomachs will be washed and finely chopped for the Larb. The gallbladders which contain the bile will be BBQed.

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The very herby duck has been cooked and will be eaten as an appetizer before the bloody second course.

(Customer:  “I would like a bloody steak”,

Waiter: “Yes, certainly, and how about some some f%&$&%g potatoes?)….. 😆

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Luckily I get served the head and now shrunken gallbladder. Bitterness is an acquired and lovely taste. :biggrin:

(in Zombie voice ,”hmmmmmmm Braiiiiiinss!!!”.)

Meanwhile in the kitchen the larb is being prepared. There are not any photos of that seeing as I´m munching on the head outside!.

Anyhow, the Larb is made in the normal way. The meat from the larger duck was removed from the bones (which went in to the stock pot). The meat is separated from the fat and skin. Both are separately finely chopped by hand (never by machine), as well as the innards. All the required herbs are also chopped or shredded. The usual suspects include shallots, chilli, coriander and mint.

The coarsely chopped fat and skin is then cooked over a medium flame in a pan with some garlic. No oil is needed as the fat and skin will render its own. Once the skin is nicely browned and shrivelled it is removed from the pan by a slotted spoon and replaced by the chopped innards.

The innards go in to the pan before the chopped meat because they take a little longer to cook. Once the innards are almost done, the rest of the meat is added, like all meats, there is no need to over cook them. The duck skin is returned to the party in the pan and once it has mingled and got friendly with the rest of the meats, the whole thing is seasoned with some fish sauce (it would be better if we had some Padek sauce!). Like I said earlier in this post, the amount of fish sauce added is very important, over seasoning will not only make the dish too salty, but will also have an effect on the blood, which you will see later. Under seasoning the larb at this moment makes sense seeing as it will be added to the blood, which already contains fish sauce.

Once all seasoned and cooked, it is left to slightly cool.

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The bowls containing the blood and diluted fish sauce arrive. The blood is still liquid. Scary too!

This recipe calls for further dilution with water at a ratio of 2:1 with a good fast stir.

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That means for every one tablespoon of blood used, two tablespoons of water must be added.

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With the liquids mixed together, it is then poured on to a plate. In just a matter of minutes it starts to congeal.

Wow, is that magic? errr. No. 😆

Well, what´s happening?

The easiest way to explain things is:

  1. Firstly (whilst the duck is still alive) the fish sauce is diluted so that it is not too salty.
  2. When the blood is collected, the saltiness of the diluted fish sauce stops the blood from congealing. That’s why it needs constant stirring whilst being collected, so that the blood mixes evenly with the other liquids.
  3. By adding more water at a ratio of 2.1, the saltiness is further diluted, thus allowing the blood to congeal and thicken to a desirable state.

Going back to the beginning of the post. You can see why if too much fish sauce is used in the initial collecting of the blood, more water needs to be added at this point, thus creating more quantity (more plates, less flavour).

The 2.1 ratio used is a tried and tested method from our cook Khamsene for this bloody meal.

More connoisseur“, he calls it. And quite rightly so… :biggrin:

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A few minutes later and the blood has set pretty well. Almost gelatin like. Still scary though!.

Once the larb has cooled down, it is then mixed with the herbs, lime juice and a little ground roasted sticky rice, no larb would be what it is without that magic aromatic dust.

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The larb is spooned on to the plates.

If the larb is over seasoned, contact with the gelified blood would return some parts of it back to a liquid state. You´d have small “puddles” of liquid blood on the dish.

Some recipes call for the diluted blood to be poured over a plate of larb, but like Khamsene said, this is “more connoisseur“. Anyhow, if the blood is poured over the larb, it has more of a chance of returning to its liquid state depending on how seasoned the meat is. Some people like their bloody larb more liquid than others. Vampires for example…

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I noticed that a dish was actually being prepared for me! At the beginning of the post I said that “I personally don’t really care for this dish“.  I originally just thought I´d tag along to take photos, eat some duck head and gallbladder etc…

The final addition to this dish is peanuts. Peanuts lend a nice crunch to the dish. Perhaps it makes the dish more enticing. Perhaps not…

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After being convinced to actually try some of this myself,  I found that the taste was much better than I had expected.

Sure it felt weird spooning up some thickened blood and minced meat (and some peanuts). I toyfully played around with the spoon in front of my face, watched the gentle “wobble” of the blood, then I remembered my mother telling  me not to play with my food.

I had to respect the ducks, the food prepared. I had to pay homage to the cuisine. I had to eat.

There was no “bloody” aroma that I thought would be there, the texture of the blood was quite soft. In fact it didn’t actually taste of blood, or what taste I think blood has. Everyone around the table was having fun. For some of them it had been more than 5 years that they last tasted Larb Luert. They savored every mouthful. For them it was treat. For me, it was an experience.

In good old Lao fashion, a bottle of alcohol was opened and the host poured himself a neat shot in to a glass before knocking it back in one go.  He then poured another shot in to the same glass and offered it to the person sitting to his left, this continues around the table. Its bad manners to refuse the shot when the glass gets to you. So don’t. :biggrin:

The bloody meal continued. More blood was diluted and poured on to plates. Someone went to the garden and picked some nice Thai Basil leaves, that really lifted the dish. Another bottle of alcohol was opened, it was someone else’s turn to do the pouring…

Right then I got a text on my phone. Someone had found me a cow and knows when and where it will be slaughtered.

“Fresh as possible”, my team said.

Action: Reaction.

:biggrin:

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14 thoughts on “Blood and Guts

  1. i always like Duck Blood Larb (Larb Luert Pét)
    recently, i find myself afraid of the raw blood.
    how can i overcome this fear?

  2. Tinko,

    Thanks for your comment, the only way to get over any fear is to face it! I never used to like this dish either, but after a few tries, it doesnt seem so bad! Good luck!

  3. Before you take that first spoonful, just don’t think about the blood and don’t look at it. Only taste it and the rest is history..I use to be afraid to eat it before but now after eating it every other weekend until I get tired of it, it’s naturally part of our culture and traditions…so enjoy.

  4. Hola Songkham,
    It´s difficult to try if you have never seen it before. Though I have eaten it in the past, its not something that I look out for. I am glad that I posted about it though.
     

  5. Can you send me the video of the duck bring slaughter in Laos that was a awesome video.. I love the recipe

  6. Vienne
    I love this dish but I could never get the same recipe from any one nor I ever try to make it because I saw so many people go wrong. However, I do want to try to make it once and for all. Would you please tell me how much water & fish sauce do you use for one average size duck when collecting the blood prior to make lard. You said the ratio ‘2:1’ but when to added.

  7. Hi Kiang,

    Thanks for your comment.

    We used about two tablespoons of fish sauce and one tablespoon of water when collecting the blood, if you see the blood beginning to congeal you should add some more fish sauce, so that the saltiness keeps the blood liquid. Its hard to define how much an average duck weighs and how much blood it will have.

    Once you have collected the blood, keep it aside and make the rest of the larb. Once you are ready to serve it, then you add the 2:1 ratio of water to blood. When you mix this together, pour it on to a plate and wait for it to congeal to a jelly like state.

    I hope that helps.

  8. Thanks and appreciate. Now, I’m clear, but not very confident yet. I guess I will have to watch friends do for several times before I give it try.

  9. Let’s say on an average size duck (about 8 lbs), how many tablespoon of fish sauce & water would you used.

  10. I would suggest using 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and half a tablespoon of water at this stage, its better to under-season than over-season. If the blood starts to thicken add some more fish sauce and water.

    An 8lb live duck is about 3½kg, which is more or less how much our ducks weighed.

    Do make sure you know where the ducks come from, organic would be best.

    Above all, experiment, then you will know, and most importantly, enjoy.

    Please let me know how you get along.

    regards

  11. Thanks Vienne. You are the best, but I don’t know If I have the gut to do it yet. I’m in the USA and have access to pretty much to all the resources but I think I should watch and learn at least a couple times more to gain the confident.
    Best Regards

  12. Hello there, somehow I came upon your blog today and don’t think I will be eating it or making duck blood larb, however, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and learned something new. I like your style.

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