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.
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 ready to serve. Or use.
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!
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?
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!
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East Indian Corned Tongue Or Salted Ox Tongue Recipe
- 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
- 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.
- Make a mixture of salt and lime juice and rub it on the tongue. Also add in the peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and khat if you want.
- 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.