Could Blood Be the Next Big Thing?


The blood sausage called gyuma at Tibetan restaurant Phayul

We may be on the culinary frontier here, but you don’t have to be a vampire (or a mosquito) to appreciate blood as an ingredient. What can it do? It thickens stews and helps puddings set. Rich in protein, it can be coagulated into shapes like Jell-O jigglers and incorporated into sleek dark sausages. It invariably makes rich dishes richer, and often imparts an appealing reddish-brown color, with little effect on flavor.

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How ’bout some blood in your Italian chocolate pudding? At Villabate Bakery

The consumption of blood has health implications as well. Historically, anemics have had to consume it to keep their hemoglobin levels high. According to my mother, my great grandmother was required to drink a cup of cow’s blood each day at the behest of her Canadian physician. Chinese medicine prescribes blood for heart ailments and to strengthen the vascular system. Look across the vast dining room of any dim sum palace, and see fathers tucking into wobbly duck- and pig-blood stir fries, wherein the red fluid is incorporated into quaking boxcar shapes, looking like a miniature puddings.

The French and Spanish love blood, too, using it in blood sausage, known respectively as boudin noir and morcilla; the second available in nearly any Latin restaurant from Cuba to Tierra del Fuego. In link or patty, a similar product called black pudding is an indispensible component of the classic Irish and English “full breakfasts.” The Tibetans eat blood sausage, too, though their version is thicker, denser, and served strewn with raw chiles.

And let’s not forget the Italians. Come Eastertide, they make an unforgettable chocolate dessert pudding called saguinaccio laced with blood – and you can’t even detect the blood. At least not very much. It’s the richest, saltiest chocolate pudding you’ve ever lapped up, though you may have to ask for it at bakeries like Veniero’s in the East Village and Villabate in Bensonhurst.

The newfangled Basque blood sausage at DBGB comes as a patty, with pig ear for added crunch.

The morcilla at Argentine restaurant Buenos Aires is served with a pickled pepper and chimichurri sauce

Of course, Thais and Filipinos use it as a soup base, and snake blood is considered an aphrodisiac throughout Southeast Asia.

But what about local chefs? Blood sausage in brasseries and bistros is common enough, and there must be over 100 Latin diners – mainly Domican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican — that serve some version of morcilla. Argentine places are very good spots to find it, too.

Brad Farmerie of Public in NYC has incorporated pig blood in Swedish rye for added richness, in addition to sometimes featuring a venison blood pudding on a breakfast special. And rabbit with blood sauce is a traditional French dish found on Paul Bocuse’s menus. Chris Consentio of Incanto in San Francisco has used blood in several recipes (see one of them on Star Chefs), including making the Italian chocolate and blood pudding noted above.

Finally, nose-to-tail advocate Fergus Henderson often features a dish of blood cake and fried egg on his menus, along with marinated calf heart and rolled pig’s spleen, both of which presumably contain blood.

In a city desperate for new ingredients, will New Yorkers be seeing more blood on our menus soon in a variety of applications? Hopefully so.

Oxtail stew with ox blood (rearing up on the upper right like an iceberg) at Kunjip in Koreatown

Gematogen — a Russian candy bar aimed at kids — contains milk, molasses, and… blood! Hey, blood is good for you.