Scary but Delicious: A Comprehensive Guide to Basic Offal

October 23, 2019

Before offal (or what I like to call guts and bits) became incredibly trendy, it has been cooked for centuries and has been essential to many cuisines. The old tradition of cooking offal came from the most basic of peasant food, where people made sure that none of the animal went to waste. In more recent times, Fergus Henderson pioneered offal at his restaurant St. John, using almost all parts of the animal on his menu,  and calling it “nose-to-tail” cooking. Here, we’ve outlined some of the most basic chicken and beef offal you can get at almost any supermarket in Manila. Don’t be scared—offal can serve you the most delicious things you’ll ever eat.

1. Chicken Hearts


One of the best ways to cook chicken heart is to simply grill them—the tiny things are all muscle, which lends itself to faster cooking methods. Cooking them yakitori-style is one of the easiest ways to tackle the tiny hearts. This Japanese way of grilling leaves a charred exterior that makes the meat’s flavors smokier and more robust. Place at least 5 of the hearts on a skewer, and marinate lightly using green tea powder, Japanese chili powder (togarashi), sesame salt, and finish with citrus notes (either yuzu powder, ponzu, or even a squeeze of lime). Place them directly on the grill, turning over every few seconds, just to make sure that each side is charred consistently. After around 5 minutes on each side, the skewers should be cooked perfectly, retaining the muscley bite one expects from grilled chicken heart.


2. Chicken Gizzards


Gizzards are one of my favorite parts of the bird; wildly underrated, I grew up eating these disguised as balunbalunan, grilled over coals alongside other chicken bits displayed on roadside carts. Without any real distinct meaty flavor, the best thing about gizzards are their toothsome, chewy texture. Frying offal seems like a cop-out, but doing it in a Southern style means that the breading will impart all the flavor onto the otherwise blander cut. Mix flour or your fine bread crumbs with a ton of Cajun spices (I like using the Paul Prudhomme’s seasonings), dredge the gizzards, then deep-fry them in hot oil. Serve once they’ve rested on a paper towel, and the gizzards should be juicy.


3. Chicken Livers


Often, chicken livers are dismissed as either boring or disgusting, because it is usually churned into paté. Don’t be afraid to keep them whole, because they have a distinct taste and texture that can be surprisingly tasty. Try turning them into sugo, the Italian slow-cooked sauce that is good with almost any meat. In a saucepan, heat up some garlic and onions in olive oil. When just colored, toss the livers whole and begin to sear them. Once almost cooked, smash the liver but keep a few chunky pieces, then toss in with oregano, sage, and parsley. Add cream, wine and reduce. Let it simmer until the livers continue to break apart, letting its flavors intensify. Toss into your favorite type of pasta—I like using thinner noodles so that the sticky thick sugo has more to generously cling onto.


4. Beef Intestines


Cleaning intestines are a nightmare, which is probably why people stay away from cooking or eating them. Leave your phobias at the door, and prep them properly by cutting them in half, cleaning in cold water, and trimming the ruffled fat at the sides. If you’re still afraid of the funky taste, using strong Korean flavors will help introduce you to this more challenging part of the cow. After cleaning your intestine, cut them into smaller pieces and marinate with sesame oil, sugar, garlic, gochujang, and a bit of vinegar, or add kimchi to add some spice and sourness. After seasoning, assemble like you would a bibimbap, placing the intestines on top of white rice and surround the mound with julienned vegetables of your choice, which you can leave raw or cook quickly. Add a raw egg yolk on top, and mix all of them together after serving.


5. Beef Heart


A more uncommon part of the cow in Filipino cuisine, beef hearts are one of the tastiest things you can cook. The taste is very similar to hanger steak or onglet—it is a little more muscley than the average steak cut, but it has the same beefy flavors, just slightly gamier. I love this cut because it is cheaper than your average tenderloin or ribeye, but you get mammoth pieces for the price, and even more flavor. You can cook this almost any way; grilled like a steak, or even stewed for a long time. Prep the heart by taking out bits of the sinew or silver skin, and cut into whatever suits your preparation—cubes for a stew, long, thin pieces for pan-searing, or cut into a tiny dice for a beef heart taco. Rub with pepper, salt and cumin, then toss quickly in the pan using olive oil. Place it on top of a warm tortilla, and top with garlic sauce, salsa verde, and onion, which are always great components to any taco. Squeeze liberally with lime.


6. Tripe


Everyone has a love-hate relationship with tripe; we all grew up with it in either kare-kare or callos, which were staples in quite a few childhood homes. Some can’t get over the silky, fatty texture, or the funky smell that permeates kitchens once it’s stewed. It can be worth the trouble, especially when extremely tender and devoid of the smell. If you want to try a different recipe with the delicious stomach, trippa alla romana is an excellent homey stew that will have you curled up with a steaming bowl stuck right under your nose. Pressure cook the tripe first before doing anything with it, to make sure it is tender to the bite. Once finished, cut up the ruffles into thin pieces, and add to a pan with olive oil, onion and garlic. Add canned chopped tomatoes with its juice, some hot paprika for a slow, warming undertone of heat, then cook while covered for at least 30 minutes. I like to add chickpeas and olives with the tripe to make this a meal in itself, otherwise, scoop the stuff onto hot rice or crusty bread.


7. Beef Skin


Beef skin is incredibly daunting—cut in odd pieces, sometimes still with bits of hair, it is slimy to the touch, and has all the characteristics that make it scary and weird to those unfamiliar with it. However, its fattiness is what makes it perfect in soups; after braising or pressure cooking it, its natural fat create a very thick, decadent but flavorful stock. The stock is so thick that it reminds one of tonkotsu broths from Japan, but made quick and easy. Try adding a Chinese twist to this broth, and eat the skin like you would beef tendon. After pressure cooking, remove the beef skin, and strain the liquid of its excess fat. Add black vinegar, sliced ginger, star anise, dried shiitakes and lots of coriander. Let it simmer and infuse for a while before adding your diced cooked beef skin.


8. Beef Liver


Another favorite cut, beef liver is intensely gamey, almost like duck, but with a texture and taste that is distinctly bovine. It is popular in countries abroad, where they usually have it tossed and cooked with onions. To enhance its beefiness, we turned it into a kebab, a recipe that is sure to get everyone eating the stuff. Marinate it in turmeric, paprika, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, then skewer the cubes. Pan fry or grill them using walnut oil, which makes sure that the spices don’t burn, but still release their intense aroma and flavors. Serve with a cooling raita on the side, or pick up and eat like the carnivore you are.


Have you ever tried offal? Do you like eating or cooking nose-to-tail? If not, which ones are you willing to try? Tell us below!

Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez

Pamela Cortez writes about food full-time, and has honed her craft while writing for publications such as Rogue, Town and Country, and The Philippine Star. She once rode on a mule for a mile just to eat mint tea and lamb in Morocco, and has eaten a block of Quickmelt in one sitting. Her attempt at food photography can be viewed online @meyarrr.

25 comments in this post SHOW

25 responses to “Scary but Delicious: A Comprehensive Guide to Basic Offal”

  1. themoviegeekstrikesback says:

    Really love that you guys did a feature on offal. I’ve developed a newfound love for it, I experimented making ‘nuggets’ out of chicken livers and hearts (flour, egg, then panko) and then topping them with spicy, caramelized onions. That was amazing.

    Where oh where can you get beef hearts in Manila?

    • Pamela Cortez says:

      Thanks for that nugget recipe, I think I’ll try that next. I find that South Supermarket has the weirdest and best stuff out there. You can get hearts, brains of beef, veal sweetbreads, whole ducks, even fresh local uni. It’s an amazing place. hahahaha

      • themoviegeekstrikesback says:

        Oh, and I added some balsamic vinegar while I was cooking the caramelized onions. Thanks for the tip, I didn’t know South Supermarket had hearts and veal sweetbreads! I was also thinking of doing chicken intestines in the style of SF garlic fries, will probably coat them in flour to get them crispy. (Yes, I’m in love with frying.)

        Where can you get yuzu powder? I know of one Japanese grocery store near my office, so I was wondering if they usually carry it.

  2. Noni Cabrera says:

    Jeez I thought it was a recipe for Hand of Glory. Scary stuff.

  3. Volts Sanchez says:

    Sounds so offal. Actually, these look pretty good but I’d still pass on a few (here’s lookin’ at you, beef skin and liver).

  4. kaye says:

    I can also add to the list, the tail of the cow! My mom always uses this part when making kare-kare 🙂

  5. Mikka Wee says:

    I love this post, Meya!

  6. hehehe says:

    how about chicken intestines stuffed into pork intestines stuffed into beef intestines? turducken of the offal kind. 😛

  7. Benjamin Canapi says:

    I love you with the intensity of a thousand suns. I will bear your children. I will follow you to the ends of the Earth. Seriously, fantastic article.

  8. slyda007 says:

    Looks delicious!!! I think I can give a couple of this a try before y gout kicks in.

  9. Carl Tomacruz says:

    What about ox tail and ox brain? Aren’t those offal as well? Any ox brain recipes apart from the usual platters served in kebab restaurants?

  10. Umberto Roco says:

    I have always loved offal of any kind. If cholesterol weren’t an issue (esp. brains) I’d have it more often. For me, dinuguan without offal is an insult.

    BTW here’s some trivia for you: The term ‘humble pie’ is derived from the old English ‘noumble’ or offal, especially of deer. After successful hunts nobles would give their dogs the noumbles. Despite the humble origin, even the wealthy learned how to enjoy ‘noumble pie’.

  11. Koko says:

    Wonderful article! I don’t know where I got the notion that eating the other parts of the animal contributes to the sustainability of our farming industry.

    What can you say about sweetbreads though? Have you tried them? I always see it on TV but I don’t know what their equivalent is in Pinoy terms.

  12. Pedro says:

    Well, most of these are consumed in Brazil.. In barbecues, it is common to eat chicken heart.. We just squeeze some lemon on it, add some soy sauce, garlic, let it marinate for an hour and grill them.. It’s delicious! Beef liver is very common too, specially when fried in a pan with onions and “Jiló” (a brazilian plant, Solanum gilo). The other ones are more rare food, and you can find it only on traditional restaurants at some specific places arround the country. Great site, love it.

    • Pamela Cortez says:

      Thanks for the compliments Pedro! Will definitely try out your recommendations. What’s a good substitute for Jilo?

      • Pedro says:

        Well, Jiló is a vegetable that has a natural bitterness and it is quite difficult to find a good substitute. From the same family, the “Beringela” (aka brinjal, aubergine, eggplant, melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash – wikipedia) is maybe a substitute, but I have never used it on this dish. Here’s a video, bad quality, but it shows a man preparing beef liver with onions and jiló: By the way, I am a new fan of the website, can’t stop reading all the articles and recipes!

  13. […] Filipinos have been eating nose-to-tail for a very long time, offal in a restaurant setting here in Manila has only been gaining more traction recently. Using the […]

  14. Sarah says:

    Hello! Thank you for this super helpful article.

    Sorry I’m late to the conversation, but how much does beef heart usually go for? I’m asking because I only have access to the local wet market (palengke), I’m a newbie at market shopping and I want to make sure they dont stiff me on the prices. You know how our palengkeras are :/

    Thanks for all the dish ideas!! I just moved to a remote place in the Visayas. There arent a lot of restaurants where I’m at, and if I want to eat well, I have to make and interesting new food myself. Your food features give me ideas for recipes to try with the local ingredients available. THANK YOUUUU

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