A Beloved Traditional Dish: Pig-Blood Soup／傳統古早味─豬血湯
A Beloved Traditional Dish: Pig-Blood Soup
◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi
◎Photos by quava
If you get off the train at Lujhu Railway Station, and walk along Jhongjheng Road, you will soon find Auntie A-Liu's Pig-Blood Soup on the right in the middle of the market. A space shielded by a big plastic tarp houses four food stalls: The one in the front serves a soup made with white wood-ear (also known as snow fungus), a sweet treat that can be eaten hot or cold; the spot to the right offers "tutuo fish soup," featuring chunks of narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (tutuo) battered and fried and then dunked in starch-thickened soup; the spot to the left offers vermicelli soup with lamb. Auntie A-Liu's is right in the middle, and invariably there is a queue in front of it.
The owner-chef and her helpers are always very busy. With practiced moves, they scoop out pig-blood tofu and pig-blood rice pudding from a steaming caldron, then put these delicacies and stock into plastic bags already filled with Chinese chives and pickled mustard green. The table to their left supports a simmering pot of meat sauce and three or four side dishes. There, another two ladies assemble meat sauce over rice to order. These ladies have been working together for years, and their moves are perfectly synchronized. Whether you want to eat in or purchase a takeout, they make sure you are served very quickly.
Pig's blood is rich in protein and low in fat, and thus healthy if consumed in moderation. The owner says the recipe came from her grandmother, and it has been around for more than 60 years now. In the early days, the family sold pork in the market in the morning, and used the same space to sell pig-blood soup in the afternoon, so they really know how to handle offal. Everything they sell, including pig's blood, large intestine, rectum, small intestine, meat sauce, and the stock that is the base of the soup, is cooked in the big kitchen at home before being transported to the market.
What makes Auntie A-Liu's pig-blood soup so special is the pig-blood rice pudding it contains. The owner says her mother used to sell oden (a Japanese soup/snack), and a customer suggested she add pig-blood rice pudding in pig-blood soup to her range of offerings. It became very popular because it is both filling and delicious. Ever since, the staff has been making pig-blood soup this way. The pig-blood rice pudding is the only ingredient the family does not make themselves, but having put a great deal of effort into selecting the right supplier, they use a pudding that is perfectly seasoned as well as wonderfully chewy due to the sticky rice. In fact, everything is cooked to perfection; the rectum is soft and tender, the small intestine is springy, the pig-blood tofu –the main ingredient of pig-blood soup –is silky soft, not dry, and there are no air bubbles in it. This is where the skills of the chef really shine, and one must appreciate the effort and attention to detail she puts into preparing her ingredients.
While taking pictures, someone looked up and said to me: "Well, you have to try this food, otherwise your trip to Lujhu doesn't count." A big smile blossomed on the face of the owner-chef, while the other customers burst into laughter. It may be a simple food stall selling simple food, but with such a long history, it is now part of the town's collective memory. It has long been a favorite among locals, and it readily wins the heart of anyone who visits.