One of the things that my parents have always taught me is to try everything. No matter how odd the aroma is or foreign the texture is, my mom and dad would always make me take a bite. I would usually begrudneonly nibble at the first bite and, realizing its pleasures, devour the whole thing I appreciate that bit of parental wisdom and value it as one of the many life lessons that will always mold my politics and outlook in food. It’s allowed me to respect not only the cultures but also the resourcefulness of people. It’s also taught me that good parenting involves forcing your child to eat things and not have to tell them what, where, or why they are eating it. Come to think of it, I think I just unlocked the key perk of parenting.
One of the things that I have come to love because of my parents philosophy on food are offals. My lack of interest in science helped me in the inability to identify parts of body, nor did I care when my parents told me the name of the protein in Taiwanese. I just assumed it was a fungus, sea creature, or animal that only existed in Asian areas. But because of my parent’s rule of don’t ask until you try it rule it didn’t matter when I did find out what I was eating. Plus, biology was never a strong program in my public school, so I couldn’t even identify what I was eating if I tried.
This dish comes from my Aunt Mei, who lives in Chicago. She made this braised liver dish for me a couple of years ago while the family was together in California. It’s delicious. She used beef liver which has a stronger gamey flavor, but pairs amazingly well with the liquid it is cooked in. The dish is braised in a flavorful combination of sweet, salty, nutty, earthy, and spicy. It’s a common cooking technique in Taiwanese cooking and you will see it with almost all proteins in the homes of Taiwanese aunties, mothers, and grandmother. The base will always consist of soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, ginger, and star anise. Other spices and ingredients may be added based on what each persons grandma uses.
I kept mine basic with just the standard stuff because it is what I have on hand. But when I first had this dish, my aunt wanted to use Chinese five spice. Just, about a teaspoon of it makes the flavors more alive if you have it. I also used chicken liver. There is alot of preparation that comes with beef liver in terms of cleaning and making sure all impurities and liver spots are removed. With chicken, you just soak it in milk over night. This helps draw out all the impurities. It’s what Alton Brown taught me, so I listen. Also, chicken liver is more bite sized, so it is perfect for chopsticks.
Serve this with a bowl of rice and some simple veggies stir fried with garlic and you have a meal. Enjoy.
1 lb chicken liver, rinsed
1 cup of milk
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
5 coins ginger, about ¼ inch thick
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine
¼ cup sugar
5 pods of star anise
soak liver over night in milk and drain
heat oils on high until slightly smoking
sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant
pour the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and star anise into pan and stir until well incorporated
lower heat to low and add liver, stirring every 15 minutes for about 1 hour, until liver is completely cooked through
-serves 4 as side dish-