Jan 5, 2011
Tongue Tied. 2 Tasty Tongue Plates: Stewed Tongue & Tongue Taco. Versailles & Carnitas Michoacanas.
Tub of tongues.
The tongue — blanketed by thousands of taste buds and hundreds of receptors that respond to primary flavors like salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami and fat (the theoretical sixth taste) — is an anatomical marvel. It's also masterful at moistening your grub so you can masticate it for swallowing.
However, the very thing that is responsible for the joy of eating can also be a joy to eat. Yes, you can taste with your tongue but, if you're willing to explore the tasty tongue options out there in our great metropolis, you can also taste tongue too. (That was a tongue twister.)
The fabulous Versailles, home of down home Cuban cooking, rarely disappoints. On any given visit, I don't even look at the menu and simply blurt out to my waiter "rabo encendido" aka "tail on fire" — the substantial, savory and satisfying meat orgy that is Cuban oxtail stew over rice. Watching me eat oxtail is like watching a 10 car pile up with fatalities. It's ugly but you can't look away as I tear flesh from tail joints, gnaw on bone and extricate marrow.
What's the matter? Waiter got your tongue?
During this particular trip to Versailles, however, I wouldn't be crushing oxtail because I spied an entrée I never before noticed — Lengua Guisada, stewed beef tongue. Cooked with tomatoes, traditional Cuban herbs, chili, gobs of garlic, olive oil and bell peppers, this generous pile of tongue threatened to tilt the side of the table on which it sat.
In a street brawl, these massive slices, nay, slabs of beefy beef tongue would certainly pummel your girly man tongue senseless. Sure, your tongue is totally outsized and outnumbered, but luckily, it isn't the one that's been beautifully cooked.
Lengua Guisada is so pleasingly tender you might moan audibly as you eat. The porous characteristic of stewed beef tongue essentially makes it a meat sponge drinking up the savory, spicy tomato intensity in the sauce and FedExing it straight to your taste buds.
The fluffy steamed rice on the side sops up all that flavor really well too. The drippy black beans and famous sweet fried plantains only add to the rustic and robust deliciousness.
While I'm on the topic of tasting tongue, there's no ignoring the popularity of taco de lengua or tongue taco at authentic taquerías citywide. One of my favorites is at Carnitas Michoacanas in Reseda.
Bite your tongue!
Their freshly braised beef tongue is seasoned to a savory peak, dressed with chopped onion and bits of zippy cilantro then topped with one of the best salsa verdes around, tangy with mild heat and deepened by fresh Mexican oregano.
Bilingual: tongue y lengua.
Chopped up into cubes, the tongue's texture becomes even more tender and satisfying. I've seen these tongue cradling packets of little corn tortillas ordered a half dozen at a time. If you're not into tongue, try this taco and you may get a taste for it...or, it might get a taste for you.
There are many other tongue dishes out there and many of them are good, really good: The blut zungenwurst or blood tongue sausage sandwich at the Van Nuys German Deli, the grilled duck tongues at Indian Restaurant, tongue sandwiches at Jewish or Persian delis around town and the delicate shavings of lean beef tongue for Korean BBQ like the irresistible slices self-grilled at O Dae San.
Though, at times, I might eat tongue with a fork, about this lingual delicacy, I'm definitely not speaking with a forked tongue.
17410 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91316
18507 Victory Blvd.
Reseda, CA 91335
Go get some tongue!