So the East Indians of Bombay in Indian or should I say Mumbai eat tongue as a delicacy for parties and events and birthdays and weddings. Anyways, apart from the regular East Indian beef tongue roast recipe, there’s also the East Indian corned tongue or East Indian salted tongue that everyone loves. So here’s how to make this awesome offal dish from a disappearing culture!
What are the ingredients for The Special Salted Beef Tongue or East Indian Corned Tongue?
The Ingredients we use for corned tongue are:
1 large beef tongue or 2 small tongues – approximately 1.5 kg
(*Note – for this test we used four – with only saltpetre and 2 with saltpetre and khair)
1 tbsp saltpetre or saltpeter (Or the more modern curing salt)
juice of 2 sourlimes or 5 tbsp vinegar
10 cloves – Optional
10 peppercorns – Optional
2 sticks cinnamon – Optional
1 tablespoon Khat powder (Khair Tree bark powder) – Optional
It’s better to buy the tongue skinned since skinning it without losing the flesh takes a bit of a learning curve. Or if you want, take a sharp knife, hold the tongue vertically, create a slit in the skin, and pull down towards the ground to take off strips at a time.
Once the tongue is ready, wash it and put it in a large steel or clay pot or a glass dish. Prick the beef tongue all over with a fork or a slim knife. Next, rub in the saltpeter and leave aside for a few hours. If you have access to it, curing salt is a better option than saltpetre. Plus it’s USDA approved.
Also, if you want the tongue to get pinker, add more saltpetre. We don’t do that, because remember, saltpeter is still a chemical. Potassium Nitrate or saltpeter was once used with abundance by cooks and other people handling meat to retain the pink color.
In modern times though, Sodium Nitrate has replaced Potassium Nitrate. And maybe one-day Sodium Nitrate won’t be used either. Most people use a mix of curing salts that are Food Safety approved curing salts.
And anyway, why add more chemicals to food? The pink color is no test of quality. So use less of saltpetre and the tongue still tastes as yummy as ever!
Why use curing salt or Saltpetre?
But if you’re wondering exactly why we still continue to use saltpeter or curing salts in the tongue, it’s because we want to live. Simple as that!
Saltpetre or curing salts prevent the growth of clostridium botulinum bacteria. These clostridium bacteria usually grow in meat and cause botulism in the form of weakness, fatigue, paralysis and more. And nope, we don’t want to die, nor do we want to get our loved ones to get sick. So following centuries-old traditions and the work of scientists everywhere, we will continue to use curing salts or saltpetre while curing tongue or corning tongue.
Then make a mixture of the salt and lime juice along with the other optional ingredients, rub it on the tongue and leave it aside for 4 to 5 days.
You know, the longer it marinades, the softer the tongue gets. If the weather is cool enough, you don’t have to refrigerate it. (Just as a side note, if you use too much sour lime the tongue gets really stringy like above.)
Anyways, we did a test to check the difference between using khat or not using khat in our tongue. Khat is the bark of the khair tree that’s traditionally used in India to give meat its pink color. Khair is the Senegalia catechu tree that’s found in Southern Asia and South East Asia and often called catechu, kher, cachou, or black cutch.
So to test, we had 4 different tongues. Two using khat or khair tree bark and two without them. All the other ingredients were the same.
Every day, you can turn the tongues over to make sure the juices are absorbed in those tongues. Or you can just forget about the tongue and go find it on the last day. No matter how you do it, this traditional method of curing beef tongue gives us some really tasty tongue.
On the nth day, be it the 2nd day or 4th or 5th or 7th day, put the tongue in a pressure cooker and add sufficient water to cover it. Once the cooker reaches full pressure, cook the tongue for about an hour.
Now here’s tongue one that has the khat in it. Chop it up into slices and it’s ready to serve. Or use in sandwiches.
And here’s tongue 2 that doesn’t have to khat or Khair tree bark in it. Slice it up!
If you look at it, it’s as pink or even more so naturally pink than the tongue with the khat powder. So maybe, the khat is not that useful. Anyways, we make corned tongue without khat most of the time, though some of our relatives still used khat!
I would have also told you the story of the relatives that thought khat or saltpeter was the same as MSG. But I’m a good niece, so I won’t!
Here’s another ox tongue from a different week that was made drier and sliced finer. You can use a lot of different variations while corning the tongue. It just depends on your preference.
Did I mention, instead of a regular knife, it’s better to use a good carving knife or a sharp knife to slice the tongue into finer slices and serve?
Tips For Salted Tongue or Ox Tongue
- We wet cure this tongue for cooking. To dry cure, there’s a different recipe.
- Store in the fridge or in a cool place while curing.
- Increase or reduce the quantity of spices to your liking.
- The same recipe works for corning beef/ox tongue or any other tongue.
- The same recipe works for other cuts of meat too.
- If you want to cure minced beef, try this recipe.
- Although you could eat tongue all by itself, it’s best not to. Serve with moong dal or masoor dal and chapatis, puris, or rice.
How to serve corned tongue?
Option 1: As a snack, you can serve it on a bed of lettuce with green chutney like we do! They disappear quite quickly at parties, so you’ll probably need to corn more than one tongue for your dinner or family gathering.
Option 3: Beef tongue or ox tongue is traditionally served in a large platter with boiled peas at East Indian weddings.
Option 4: These tongue slices also do great in sandwiches, don’t you think? We used to love finding corned tongue sandwiches in our lunch tiffin at school recess. Some memories!
Is this the same as your mom’s recipe for the East Indian corned tongue? What’s different? Comment and let us know!
FAQ’s about Corned Tongue
Ox tongue taste similar to the other parts of red meat but being fattier tastes chewier.
Ox tongue, neat’s tongue, or beef tongue are all one and the same, the tongue of a bovine animal such as a cow (female) or bull, ox, or bullock (male). Females are usually not used for meat in some cultures because they’re considered holy, while in others they’re simply not used since they’re more useful for milk production.
The simple answer to the question of why we corn tongue or cure tongue is so that it becomes more flavorful and tender. There’s just that certain oomph to the taste that curing adds.
Depending on the breed, the weight of a cow or bull can vary from 250 kgs to over 1000 kgs. The tongue of the animal, however, only weighs between 1 to 2 kg. This difference, plus the demand for ox tongue leads to an increased cost.
If you can’t find salt peter / salt petre, use an approved curing salt. It’s also sold as a prague powder. Some of the well known curing salts are Tender Quick, Instaquick, Hoosier Hill Prague Powder, Misty Gully Curing Salts, Smoke Dust Curing Salts, and a lot more.
Corned Tongue can be stored in a refrigerator for about 3-4 days or in the freezer for upto 3 months in air-tight containers.
Other East Indian Recipes to try
- Easy Beef Tongue Roast Recipe
- Ginger Wine Recipe (Homemade)
- Mutton Paya Khudi
- East Indian Kimad Recipe
- Bombil Pickle Recipe
- Goat Tripe or Vajri Khudi
- Honey Balls Recipe
- Special East Indian Chicken Tope
- Pork Vindaloo Recipe
- East Indian Kadmat or East Indian Cuchumber Salad
- East Indian Black Currant Wine
You can print off the list of ingredients and instructions to follow for making this recipe via the recipe card below (for home use only).
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East Indian Corned Tongue Or Salted Ox Tongue Recipe
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- 1 Beef Tongue Use 1 Large Tongue circa 12 to 1.5 kg Or 2 Small Tongues circa 600 to 700 grams
- 1 tbsp Saltpeter Or 0.5 tsp Curing Salt
- 2 Sourlimes (Juice) Or 5 Tbsp Vinegar
- 10 Cloves Optional
- 10 Peppercorns Optional
- 2 sticks Cinnamon
- 1 tbsp Khat Powder Optional (Khair Tree or Catechu Powder)
- Skin your tongue. (We get ours skinned by the butcher.)
- Put your tongues in a clay, glass or stainless steel pot and prick them all over with a fork.
- Rub in the saltpetre (or curing salt) and leave aside for 3 to 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, make a mixture of salt and lime juice and rub it on the tongue. Also add in the peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves. Add khat (cathechu powder) if you want to (We don't find it necessary).
- Leave the tongue aside for 2 to 7 days. Or if you want, turn it over everyday and prick it with the fork so more of the juices get absorbed.
- After 2 to 7 days (depending on how long you can wait), put the tongue in a pressure cooker, cover it with water, and cook for 1 hour.
- After cooking, cut the tongue into slices and serve!
- Use it as a side dish or serve it in sandwiches.