Eating Cow Tongue in Sendai, Japan

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.

Cow tongue steak

Cow tongue steak

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.

Cow tongue sendai japan

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?”

“No, why?”

“Because… tongue…”

“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.

Cow tongue sendai japan

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!”

Cow tongue sendai japan

[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?]

Cow tongue sendai japan




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About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

10 Comments on Eating Cow Tongue in Sendai, Japan

  1. I’d love to go try this :)
    I’ve actually eaten cow tongue before, since my dad wanted to try making Chinese style Russian Soup with this huge pack of cow tongue he got from…I really don’t know where (probably one of the Asian markets around). I saw the tongue in the package and my dad did a poor job of cutting them up. It was also his first time cooking them. I didn’t think it was bad, but it’s kind of like when you think of eating chicken feet. If you can get past the looks, it can be delicious, but if you can’t, well….

    The texture of cow tongue is a lot different than the regular cuts, so it was a little off-putting for me, too…

    • Yeah! The texture is pretty different.

      We cooked up froze pig tongue a couple nights ago (it was 50% of at the supermarket). It was yummie – as always – but the texture is pretty hard to get around….

  2. I had gyutan last November in Sendai. That wasn’t the main reason I took the train up there, but it was on the list of things I had to do once I arrived. Beef tongue (at least in Sendai) is fantastic. I’ve seen a tongue in a store and it looks disgusting. In Sendai, it is a revered delicacy and rightly so. I loved it so much.

  3. There’s also “Zundamochi” in Sendai that isn’t too bad, it’s mainly from the Tohoku area.

    “Rikyu” is the largest cow-tongue chain restaurant around here, but there are a few other better ones that you could try if you get a chance to come back in the future.

    I was just introduced to your blog recently, it’s great so far! And I’m surprised that you visited Sendai recently, as I live here myself.

    • Nice! We were visiting my fiance’s friend, who was a JET teacher in Sendai. I absolutely LOVE it there (aside from the cold) – so I’m going to try to visit again in the summer.
      I will check out Zundamochi, thanks for the suggestion!

  4. I have never wanted to try cow tongue until now. If you hadn’t mentioned that it was cow tongue I would have never guessed. It looks pretty good.

  5. Hi there! Nice post.

    I had cow tongue gyudon just the way you had it in Roppongi Hills, thinly sliced. It was not bad, but not awesome either. I guess it was more because of the restaurant itself than anything else.

    The other plate, half raw, seems much more hardcore, but I would definitely try it.

    In Switzerland (where i come from) and France, cow tongue is also eaten thninly sliced and cooked, often with caper. But it is a dish which is a little bit out of fashion and disgusting to the younger crowd.

    Did you ever wonder where all those chicken wings come from? :-D

    • Interesting. Since I wrote this post, I’ve heard lots of other countries also eat cow tongue. I think that’s really cool.

      I don’t know if I’m “brave” enough to try it raw… but give it a couple years. Maybe.

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