Pump some fresh blood into your diet

By Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-13 20:25:04


Duck blood tofu is a popular delicacy eaten at hot pot restaurants in Beijing. Photos: Li Hao/GT
Duck blood tofu is a popular delicacy eaten at hot pot restaurants in Beijing. Photos: Li Hao/GT

Vampires are not the only creatures that suck every last drop from their prey.

The Chinese do it, too. It seems like Chinese cooking has explored every possible method of making every part of an animal edible: feet, tails, tongues, lungs, livers and yes, even blood.

In addition to blood cake (a rice cake infused with pig blood), and blood sausages (sausages made of blood and meat), blood tofu - congealed blood of chicken, cow, and either duck or pig - is the most commonly seen method of preparing blood in China.

Before it lands on your table, the fresh blood undergoes filtration, has some salt added, and then is left to congeal.

A Beijinger surnamed Zhai is one of the local blood tofu connoisseurs, and said, "Without duck blood, you can't fully enjoy a hot pot."

At Haidilao's Hongmiao chain restaurant, Chaoyang district, bright red blocks of duck blood tofu arrived at the table plated atop green lettuce, creating a dramatic contrast. Zhai dipped one piece at a time into the hot soup, holding it in the broth for only a few seconds until the blood tofu was firm, but not yet stiff.

The cooked blood tofu tasted smooth, Zhai said. It was soft and juicy to the bite, with a potent flavor and lasting aftertaste. The original fishy smell of raw blood vanished after the blood was boiled and dipped in spicy, salty hot pot sauces.

Bloody good

Besides eating blood during a hot pot meal, the duck blood and vermicelli soup is another favorite bloody delicacy of Beijingers.

The soup, originally from Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, contains other animal-part  ingredients such as duck gizzards, intestines and livers. It has a jelly-like, waxy texture with a mellow taste and good aroma.

The owner of The Yan's, a small duck blood soup shop in Haidian district, surnamed Yan, told Metro Beijing that the soup is very popular, and the shop sells more than 1,000 bowls every month.

However, China is not the only country putting animal blood in its cooking. In the UK, people have black pudding for breakfast, which is a kind of sausage made from pig blood and oatmeal. In Portugal, pork, chicken or rabbit is cooked in its own blood in a traditional soup. Finland and Sweden have blood pancakes. Other cultures, including Judaism and Islam, forbid the consumption of blood.

Alexander Glazer, a German architect in Beijing, said he tried blood tofu but didn't like it, despite blood sausages being a traditional German dish.

"I think the idea of blood is disgusting," said Glazer.

Watch out for fake blood

While enjoying this delicacy, you should be aware of fake blood tofu on the market, especially duck blood tofu.

This year, one of Beijing's most famous chain snack stores, Daoxiangcun, was reported as selling fake duck blood. Traces of formaldehyde were found and the products were pulled the off shelves, Beijing-based Legal Mirror reported May 15. 

Compared to pig blood, duck blood production is lower in yields but higher in costs, which has caused some unscrupulous producers to sell their cheaper pig blood as duck blood.

To make the fake duck's blood color and taste closer to the real one, all sorts of harmful ingredients are added, including formaldehyde, which is toxic and damages the liver, kidneys and nerves. The formaldehyde increases the fake blood's firmness and prolongs its shelf life, said nutritionist Yang Wenjiao.

"Only fresh blood from animals verified to be free from diseases is safe to eat," Yang said. "Make sure you go to a reliable shop to buy it or to a reputable restaurant to eat it."

Local food and drug authorities said animal blood edibles produced in the city are safe, and routine checks ensure those from other provinces sold in Beijing are safe, too, according to a May 27 report from the Global Times.

There are some easy tricks to identifying fake blood. Uncooked, real duck blood is delicate and crisp in texture, and hard to pick up with chopsticks. However, fake blood tofu tastes chewy, and is harder to break with chopsticks than the real one.

You are what you eat

Traditional Chinese Medicine theories assert, "You are what you eat," and in Chinese culture animal blood is believed to be efficient in cleaning the blood vessels and in giving the skin a beautiful, flushed glow.

Low in fat and sugar, animal blood is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, especially iron, Yang said.

Animal blood can be a healthy choice, especially for women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or menstruating, the elderly, children and those who are anemic.

But animal blood is not for everyone. "People who have high blood pressure, or high level of cholesterol, or cardiovascular diseases should consume it in small amounts," said Yang.

Posted in: Food, Metro Beijing

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