Yang can cook

When my mom asks if I want pig intestines for dinner, I say, “Yes, please.”

When people talk about natural cooks, they’re talking about my mom.

She says she’s impressed that I bothered to grapple with a pig head, but I wouldn’t even know what to do with these — not least because, of this ingredient, my cookbooks say very little or nothing at all. When I ask her how she learned to cook intestines, who taught her, how she even thought to cook them in the first place, she says she’d had them in a restaurant once upon a time, liked them, thought they were tasty, went to the butcher and brought some home, and just thought about it — thought about how other similar cuts (like what, exactly, Mom?) are best cooked, and figured it out, as she does and has done with everything else.

You have to wash them very, very thoroughly, scrub them inside (by inverting) and out with salt because they’re slimy. (“And you should get your intestines from Chinese butchers, because they get them really clean. White people don’t know how to clean them, and they’re still stinky. They [the intestines] used to be really cheap too, but now they’re not.”) Then you cut the intestines up into sections and blanch them quickly to get them extra clean, at which point they’re ready for the pot. Because they’re fatty, you braise them a couple of hours the usual way (usual for Chinese-style braising, particularly for cuts of pork), with soy sauce, black vinegar, star anise, and a little sugar.

Most importantly, she says, after they’re done braising, you take them out, dry them, and then sauté them in a pan, so you have that textural contrast between crisp exterior and chewy, fatty interior. (In the dish above, she’s stirfried intestines with tofu, garlic chives, and peppers.) There’s nothing offal-y about this offal; they’re just that unbeatable troika of sweet-salty-porky. Or, as Mom says, they’re “more flavory.”

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