Of all the parts of cows we eat – tongue is not high up on that list. In fact, tongue rarely makes that list at all (mostly because, you know, when you eat an animal you usually don’t try to eat it’s non-meaty parts like eyes, tongue, bladder, and testicles).
But in Sendai you eat cow tongue.
Actually, scratch that, it’s more than just eating cow tongue. Cow tongue is the specialty of Sendai, Japan (one of the Northern areas). They have cow tongue steak, cow tongue soup, cow tongue curry, and a whole assortment of other cow-tongue themed dishes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they had cow tongue ice cream up in Sendai.
Ryosuke and I went to Sendai to visit one of his old friends who worked as a JET English teacher in the outskirts of the city. While we waiting for him to get off work, Ryosuke took me on a hunt throughout the city to find the best cow tongue restaurant (where we could get a full meal for less than $20).
We decided on the famous Sendai chain cow tongue restaurant “Rikyu” (利久) because every other place we looked at seemed to charge upwards of 2,500 yen for a full meal.
Forty minutes and three missed turns later, we ended up on the third floor of a drafty building, waiting in line for a spot at the counter of a nice, cozy restaurant.
I scanned the menu and gulped. Cow tongue steak… cow tongue curry… fried cow tongue… cow tongue rice bowl. “Ummm, honey. Is there anything on the menu that, like, uses a non-tongue part of the cow?”
“Oh come on. It is meccha umai (delicious). You will love it.”
He was right. I ordered a cow tongue rice bowl; he ordered a serving of lightly pan fried cow tongue with the house sauté. We got to watch them cook the food in the open kitchen attached to the bar. Cow tongue looked difficult to slice.
In the end, my cow tongue had a completely different texture than Ryosuke’s cow tongue. Mine was sliced very thin and had been fried in oil. It was prepared identical to a normal gyuudon (beef rice bowl).
His was cut into thick slabs and seared in a pan. The insides were still raw and juicy – it was difficult to chew and filled with flavor.
I loved both of them equally. Cow tongue is absolutely fantastic. I also highly recommend “Rikyu,” the chain restaurant in Sendai. You can find “Rikyu” shops throughout the city – the atmosphere is fun, the staff is understanding, and the food is top-notch.
Next time you’re in Sandai, try some of the local “cow tongue!”
[Ps, nearly every restaurant I saw served cow tongue. Cow’s tongues are large, but not THAT large. Where are all these tongues coming from? I’m so confused! Do they import tongues from abroad?]
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