Whereas my Bà Ngoại (maternal grandmother) specializes in traditional Vietnamese fare, my Ông Ngoại (maternal grandfather) cooks up fusion dishes inspired from his travels as a merchant marine. Nui Lòng, which roughly translates as “noodles with offal,” is one of his specialties. Ông Ngoại learned this dish when he was eighteen years old from an Italian cook name Anthony while on board the S.S. Gio Long.
Nui Lòng transforms offals that are usually considered nasty bits, like gizzards, hearts, and tongues, into a hearty and savory ragoût. Ông Ngoại has been preparing this dish for well over half a century—first in Vietnam, and for the past 35 years, in America. Eaten with noodles or a fresh baguette, Nui Lòng offers a unique and flavorful fusion of Italian flavors, Vietnamese sensibility, and French techniques.
- 1 pound chicken gizzards
- 2 pig’s hearts
- 2 pig’s tongues
- 2 cans Champignon mushrooms
- 10 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoon Bò Kho powder seasoning (Three Bells or Con Voy brand)
- Chili flakes
- Chili powder
- 1/4 cup Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce
- 2 small onions, diced
- Vegetable oil
- 16 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- 1 tablespoon dried black peppercorns
Uncommon offals, like the ones called for in this recipe, can be found in most Asian grocery stores. We purchased gizzards, tongues, and hearts at my grandparents’ favorite Vietnamese grocery store, Vien Dong (5382 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92105, 619-583-3838).
Due to the nature of offals, it is of utmost importance that each ingredient be carefully cleaned and prepped. Begin by rinsing the hearts under cold water. Remove any impurities from the surface and valves using fingers. Set aside in a colander to drain.
Rinse the gizzards under cold water. Remove any impurities (i.e. flecks of undigested food) using a sharp paring knife. Set aside in a colander to drain.
Prepping the tongue is a bit more complicated than the hearts and gizzards. Begin by removing the white blubbery fat and connective tissue on the underside of the tongue. Set fat and tissue aside. Place both tongues in a medium-sized saucepan filled with cold water and boil on high heat for 30 minutes. Add additional water to the saucepan as necessary.
One at a time, rinse the tongues under cold water and scrape away all the gray matter on the tongue’s surface using a sharp paring knife. The tongue will be quite hot, but persevere because the film is much easier to remove before the tongue has cooled. A properly prepped tongue will be ubiquitously pink, without a trace of gray matter on its surface.
Next, assemble the marinade by combining half of the garlic, sugar, salt, Bò Kho powder seasoning, and Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce in a large bowl. Add enough chili flakes and chili powder to achieve the desired degree of spiciness. Whisk to combine and set aside.
Slice and dice offals and mushrooms
Cut the tongues, gizzards, and hearts into bite-sized pieces—approximately one centimeter cubed—using a very sharp knife. This is an especially laborious task, but wholly necessary in order for the marinade and seasonings to properly soak into the offals.
Add the tongues, gizzards, and hearts to the marinade, making sure that each bit is coated evenly. Ông Ngoại likes use his hands in order to squeeze the innards and the marinade together for maximum flavor absorption.
Drain the Champignon mushrooms and slice each one in half. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute the onions and the remaining minced garlic using a combination of vegetable oil and pork tongue fat. When the onions are transparent, add the tomato sauce, then the offals (marinade and all). Combine thoroughly and turn down the heat to medium-low. Let the offals simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the chicken broth, peppercorns, and sliced mushrooms to the simmering offals. Season the broth to taste using a combination of sugar, salt, chili powder, Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce, and MSG. Add more water or chicken broth as necessary to dilute the seasonings. Let the ragoût simmer over low heat until the offals are tender, approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.