07 February, 2009

Duck Tongues and Feet (Goodies from China, Part 1)

Last week, I mentioned that Stephanie had sent a big box of goodies from China. Today we're taking our first peek, and we find Smoked and Spiced Duck Tongues, and Smoked and Spiced Duck Feet! Yummy!

Now, I have to say that the packaging and graphics are truly inspired. Each duck foot, or "duck web" as they are labeled, is individually cryovac packaged in a foil pouch. The tongues are similarly packed, but there are two in each pouch. These packages keep the treats fresh and delicious for a long time. And I love the graphics, with a cartoon duckling giving the viewer a "thumbs up" superimposed over photographs of the tasty snacks. I got a kick out of the brand name, too: The iDuck Series.

Duck Tongues: The Snack That Tastes You Back

This is what a smoked spiced duck tongue looks like right out of the package. Each tongue has four small bones associated with it. There are two thin pin bones, one on each side, and two short but broad bones under the tongue itself.

I've found the easiest way to eat the tongues is to pluck out the broad bones from under the tongue and then eat the rest kind of like a chicken wing - pop the whole thing into your mouth and then slide the two pin bones out between your teeth, removing the meat from them as your go.

How do they taste? Well, Americans tend to think "hot" when they see the word "spicy" but "spicy" on a Chinese-packaged product often means "five-spice seasoned" instead, and that is exactly the case here. The smoke flavor is very subtle and the flavor of the tongue is mild. Overall, it's very similar to American vienna sausages, but richer and with a more interesting texture (provided by the little curlicues of cartilage no doubt.)

At Left, Top: The bones from inside a duck tongue

At Left, Bottom: The tongue as removed from the packaging; the pin bones are folded under the tongue (aboard a duck, those bones extend from the base of the tongue.)

I wish that I had duck feet...

Duck feet, although bonier, are easier to eat. The bones are bigger and there's more meat. right out of the package it looks like a tiny withered fist, perhaps ready to flip us off:

As with the tongues, "spicy" refers to the five-spice seasoning. The meat and gristle, all of which should be eaten, are tender but not "fall off the bone" tender, and the foot is enshrouded with flavored aspic, made from the juices of the foot as it cooks and is sealed in the pouch.

Duck feet aren't very meaty - most of what's there is soft-cooked tendon and skin. But the texture is interesting, and the smoke and spice give an interesting flavor: different from the tongue, almost like a rich chicken stock.

I don't think there's a "proper" way to eat them. You can nibble the meat off the bones (make sure you eat the gristly bits between the bones) or break off the bone segments and clean them off by pulling them between your front teeth. Some people eat the toes whole, toenails, little bones, and all, but I'm not really comfortable with that - and the nails are really sharp! I got one jabbed into my gums between two molars and it hurt like hell.

Anyway, my favorite way of eating them is to pull out all the little bones and toenails first - they slip right out and leave the web all wobbly and boneless - and then pop it in my mouth like a tiny drumstick, with the ankle bone as a handle. Delicious.

With any luck, I'll be able to find these in my local Asian supermarket.


Ten Wow Food Co. of Shanghai website (in Chinese - no English page available at this writing.)

I wish that I had duck feet
And I can tell you why:
You can splash around in duck feet
You don't have to keep them dry.

-- Theo. LeSeig
(Dr. Seuss)


Mr. Dave said...

This is great, I am likewise obsessed with other cultures snack foods and would like nothing more than to receive a box of strange and beautiful tidbits from abroad. You are a luck man. One note of interest I would like to see in this series, if handy could you include the relative price in American coin that these snacks cost in China? I am always curious about that kind of thing.

Rowena said...

You know what I love about this whole post? It's the packaging! Now I'd be game to give duck tongue/feet a try, but I want one of those yellow rubber duckies for my bathtub!

Just Cook It said...

Great post, Dave. Love the description of the duck foot. Did you think it was about to give you 'the bird'? Ha ha ha (sorry?)