What is soondae? The word looks an awful lot like sundae (it’s even commonly transliterated this way), but I can guarantee that most people would be fairly shocked to receive a plate full of plump sausages filled with blood and pig’s snout, rather than the sweet, frozen treat of their dreams. Soondae is a traditional Korean blood sausage similar to black pudding, though the starchy filler used is glutinous (sweet) rice. It’s a true sausage in that it is stuffed inside a casing much like morcilla or boudin noir. The texture is amazing, folks. It’s light, chewy, bouncy – quite reminiscent of mochi due to the sticky rice and pork snouts. It’s something you can become addicted to far too easily..
Lovely image provided by blood–stock.
Heated discussions, desperate queries, massive brain-imploding confusion about blood safety pop up quite regularly in sang friendly spaces. Unfortunately, while there are some excellent, albeit brief mentions out there regarding the topic, nothing really attempts to do more than vaguely address the subject. Information is divided, curtailed, and often painful to follow through various spaces and mediums. In forums & channels, for example, guidance can be wildly mixed in accuracy, even intention. There’s a lot of improper advice given that, if put into practice, could possibly make people ill. The bottom line is this: if you’re a sang, you’re likely ingesting blood; not only that, but in a raw state. When it comes to health and safety, I had hoped that sound attempts at reducing the risk of potential pathogens would be kept alongside proper food management techniques. They are not.
In this article, I will be focusing on information regarding the safety of handling blood that has already been collected from a source and treated. Due to the degree of pertinence, therefore, animal blood will be used as the prime example here. If you’re collecting the blood yourself and it has not been treated, here is an amazing article detailing the process. If you’re more curious about human blood, you may look here or there to start. Consuming raw blood comes with inherent risks that are made more complicated with mishandling. Difficulties in sourcing blood to begin with can also pose a problem. The ease of obtaining animal blood and its quality depend greatly on your location, unfortunately – or fortunately, if you’re a lucky bastard. In areas where people are not far removed from their food sources, blood is much easier to obtain. Lack of demand and cultural aversion in other places can make acquisition quite difficult. It’s worth noting that animal blood is illegal in some countries, so save yourself the added grief by doing some research on the subject before beginning your fervent quest.
Blood as food? I think it’s safe to assume that most wouldn’t consider such a statement an even remotely pleasant idea. People are, in general, deeply squeamish about the thought of blood itself, never mind actually coming in contact with or consuming the conspicuous liquid. While there are certainly natural motivating factors behind being reluctant about or repelled by blood, the most pervasive culprit for this inclination has a lot to do with shifting cultural biases & trends.
In many parts of the world, blood is still widely consumed on a regular basis & inherently worked into the ritual of slaughter itself. Not only does it provide an important nutritional role within the diet, it also makes up a good portion of the total yield of an animal. There can be forty liters of blood in one cow alone, just to bring things into perspective. Wasting such a large portion of an animal is not only ridiculous, but simply out of the question for a good number of people. Many can’t afford to be so far removed from their food, or to cherry-pick what parts they’d prefer to utilize for their meals. Necessity aside, however, nose to tail eating is actually a more reasonable & sustainable practice to be mindful of.
Beloved in one culture, abhorred in another, blood makes for a fascinating, if polarizing ingredient. Though I find its dubiousness to be questionable if handled with care, it does have a high rate of spoilage, a huge mess factor, & reacts quite finicky when introduced to heat. Still, it can be a beautifully versatile ingredient, as long as it’s basic nature is kept in mind. Blood is traditionally used as a thickener in sauces, a binder in sausages & terrines, a minerally pungent kick to both savory and sweet dishes alike. If the metallic twang sounds off putting, try pairing it with spices, cream, fruits, even chocolate.
For as long as humans and their ancestors have hunted animals & eaten meat, they’ve utilized blood for both comestible means & basic nutritional needs. Although it’s fallen out of fashion in recent times, evidence of blood usage in culinary applications can still be found by those who are willing, curious, & open-minded enough to dig a bit deeper & entertain new possibilities. In this section, we at The Red Cellar will attempt to celebrate this grossly overlooked and underutilized ingredient &, with luck, perhaps ease some of the stigma it seems to carry.