Offal—tongue, tripe, heart, even face, among other so-called off cuts—happens to be one of my favorite things to eat. As with most of my stranger culinary predilections, I blame it on my old man who always made sure to include plenty of hearts whenever he cooked up a batch of chicken soup. Thus I present a list of some of my favorite nasty bits.
1. Fu qi fei pian, Cheng Du Tian Fu
The story goes that fu qi fei pian, or husband and wife offal slices, are so named because the couple who created this classic dish back in Chengdu, Sichuan, had an especially harmonious union. While that tale may be apocryphal the union of meaty beef tongue; funky chewy ribbons of tripe; and translucent swatches of tendon bathed in chili oil and shot through with peanuts cilantro, and just enough Sichuan peppercorn to set your mouth atingle is especially delicious. My favorite place to dig into this fiery heap of beef offal is Cheng Du Tian Fu in Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Cheng Du Tian Fu, No. 31, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St., Flushing
2. Vastedda, Joe’s of Avenue U
In Palermo vastedda vendors are as common as the taco trucks that line Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. My favorite spot to score the Sicilian calf spleen sandwich is Joe’s of Avenue U. A pillowy roll comes topped with a heap of calf spleen blanketed with creamy ricotta and melted caciocavallo cheese. It’s a rich, meaty, filling sandwich to satisfy any offal lover. Joe’s of Avenue U, 287 Avenue U, Gravesend, Brooklyn, 718-449-9285
3. Kuay tiew nam tok moo, Pata Paplean
On weekend afternoons this funky little bar on a stretch of Woodside Avenue that’s fast becoming a little Thailand serves up some of the best street food around. Of the three noodle soups the most offal rich is kuay tiew nam tok moo, a darkish bowl that gets much of its color and flavor from pork blood. Topped with pork crackling and enriched with bits of liver and fatty pork it makes for an invigorating light lunch. Pata Paplean,76-21 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 718-651-2076
4. Chicken feet, Sik Gaek
When it comes to chicken feet it’s all about the sauce. While I don’t mind gnawing on the black bean sauce slicked version found at New York City’s dim sum parlors, my favorite chicken feet can be found at Sik Gaek, a Korean seafood and soju emporium with two locations in Queens. The mountain of spicy chicken feet comes strewn with green onions and sesame seeds. This paragon of poultry offal is braised to a wobbly melting texture in a spicy sauce and then slightly charred rendering it smoky as well as fiery. Sik Gaek, 49-11 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, 718-205-4555; 161-29 Crocheron Ave., Flushing, 718-321-7770
5. Yunnan sliced pork special salad, Crazy Crab 888
Apart from its provenance and the setting in which it’s served—New York City’s only crab shack/secret Burmese restaurant—what makes this sliced pork salad truly special is where it comes from on the pig: the face. Pinkish, translucent sheets of flesh; fried shallots; roasted peanuts; cilantro; and red and green chilies top a bed of greens seasoned with lime and the unmistakeable funk of fish sauce. The cool, slightly chewy swatches of pork and greens make for a fine summer snack. Crazy Crab 888, 40-42 College Point Blvd, Flushing, 718-353-8188
6. Tawa Katakat, Kababish
This Pakistani offal fry-up is so named because of the sound—katakat—that heralds its preparation. Goat brains, kidneys, and heart seasoned with ginger and chili, and cilantro are chopped up on the tawa. The result is a fiery, funky goat offal bonanza. The version served at Kababish is exemplary and fresh as all get out thanks to the shoebox of a restaurant’s affiliation with the butcher next door. Kababish, 70-64 Broadway, Jackson Heights, (718) 565-5131
7. Spicy and tingly lamb face salad, Biang!
Ma la yang lian, or spicy and tingly lamb face salad, got its start at Xi’an Famous Foods original location in the Golden Mall and continues to be served there as well as slightly upscale sister spot Biang! The fiery heap of ovine offal, including creamy bits of tongue and crunchy pieces of soft palate shot through with hot green chilies and cilantro, is a riot of textures and flavors. Some like my pal Josh Ozersky find it offputting, but it remains one of my favorite offal dishes to this day. Don’t forget to play amateur ovine anatomist as you pluck bits of eye, tongue, and nose with your chopsticks. Biang!, 41-10 Main St, Flushing, 718-888-7713