Pig ears, tails, feet. Tripe, sweetbreads, tongue. Cod sperm, salmon roe, yellowtail collar. (One could go on.) Foodist culture embraces it all. But the life force keeping everything else healthy and tasty and succulent still makes most eaters squeamish: blood.
Rich in proteins and lipids, blood can be found in some form or another in basically every regional genre of food -- except American, or at least the so-called traditional stuff. The Masai in Africa drink it straight from the cow. Europeans thicken it into sausage. Thai and Korean cooks ladle it into soup broth. It's like the perfect paleo-diet food, Crossfitters!
Time to get over it. Impress your friends! Live forever! Here are the best places to go in L.A. vhen you vant to suck some blood.
In the United Kingdom, blood's for breakfast. You can feast on the slightly more appetizingly-named "black pudding" at any number of Irish pubs in town, and many of them serve it all day. It's a part of the traditional Irish/British morning, a mealy mixture of pork blood, onions, spices and oatmeal, all rolled into a sausage, sliced and grilled. Served with eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and bread, it's usually the flavor bomb on the plate -- a spicy side dish reminiscent of scrapple. A word of caution though: It's a little sticky. Because there's nothing quite like being told by your friend to pick the blood out of your teeth. Tom Bergin's Tavern, 840 S. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles; 323-936-7151. Finn McCool's, 2701 Main St., Santa Monica; 310-452-1734.
Korean blood sausage -- soondae -- is such a homey comfort food for Los Angeles' Korean population that there are a half-dozen restaurants dedicated to the dish, and 8th Street Soon Dae might be the best. A pork casing is filled with blood and vermicelli noodles, then steamed and sliced, ready to be dipped in salt and fishy shrimp sauce. The restaurant's décor is reminiscent of a hospital waiting room: bland yellow lighting, Korean television blaring on the wall, tables and chairs right out of a church basement. But for sixteen bucks you can feed an army -- if your army is into Asian-style innards.
The soondae combo comes with an assortment of banchan, including an excellent sour/spicy pickled radish, purple rice, pork soup, and a platter of sliced pig ears, intestine, stomach, and soondae, the raison d'etre. Don't think too hard about it -- just dig in with the pretty metal chopsticks, and wash it all down with some cold barley tea. 2703 W 8th St., Los Angeles; (213) 487-0038.
3. La Cevicheria:
In what may be the worst-named option on this list, Bloody Clam Ceviche is the thing to get at this brightly painted, teeny seafood spot on Pico. Go with a friend -- because the ceviche is served in a truly giant goblet with a side of tostadas, brimming with tomatoes, onions, avocado, mint, Worcestershire sauce, and the aforementioned bloody clams, so named because of the red hemoglobin liquid found inside the shell. The ceviche is a dark purple-tinged witches' brew of awesome, the blood adding depth of flavor and spice. Less adventurous dining companions will be quite happy with the fish tacos, but c'mon. You know why you're here. Eat the damn bloody clam. 3809 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-732-1253.
2. Sapp Coffee Shop:
This Thai-Town staple is the epitome of hole-in-the-wall cuisine; a modest, fluorescent-lighted little place churning out food so good it made our list of 99 Essential Restaurants.
The hematophagic thing to get here is a steamy bowl of Thai Boat Noodles -- a tangle of noodles served in a savory, tangy broth thickened with blood. You can have it topped simply with beef or you can go all the way with liver, tendon and pork rind. There's an earthy, beefy funk to this dish that'll have you licking the bowl. More squeamish dining companions can enjoy the Nam Sod (spicy pork salad) or the beautiful Jade Noodles -- but they'll be missing out. 5183 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-665-1035.
1. Bar Ama:
Blood sausage gets a Tex-Mex spin on the dance floor at Josef Centeno's downtown hotspot. He makes a hash of blood sausage and pork cheek, perches it on buttery corn and quinoa, and tops the whole thing with a barely set fried egg. Once you pierce the yolk you're gifted with a concoction that ain't good-lookin' but tastes pretty damn awesome: rich and sweet and salty. His blood sausage -- blood mixed with oatmeal and other fillers -- is dark as night, has the consistency of chocolate cake, and in this instance, adds a nice layer of complexity and gaminess. Quite simply, addictive. 118 W. 4th St., Los Angeles; 213-687-8002.
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