Gyutan: Grilled Tongue

Grilled Tongue

Give thy thoughts no tongue. (~Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)
Mr. Tess went grocery shopping, and what did he find: a frozen 3 pound tongue! Oh no
room in the freezer, so what to make with it? I’ll give you no pictures of the tongue
in its original state, but if you search and find an image, don’t tell me about it!
Truth be told, I love tacos de lengua and have even made them myself, from scratch. And pickled tongue makes a lovely sandwich. Neither of these foods is even remotely Japanese, but a quick search on the net showed me that grilled thinly sliced beef tongue  is a popular item on many restaurant menus, especially yakiniku places. The Japanese word for cow gyu (牛) is combined with the English word for tongue to become gyutan (牛タン).  After the World War II, it became a speciality in Sendai, Japan—using cow tongues and tails leftover from the occupation forces. —from Wikipedia
Gyutan Grilled Beef Tongue

Cooking a tongue is easy: wash it with cold water and salt, then boil it for a few minutes. Change the water, and cook with seasonings of your choice. The key to tenderness is low and slow with a very gentle simmer. When the meat is done, remove the tongue from the broth and easily pull the tough skin away. Almost like peeling fruit!


Gyutan Grilled Beef Tongue Boldness be my friend! (~Cymbeline, Act 1, Scene 6)
But grilling tongue means that it must be peeled before it’s cooked. Yes indeed: boldness! The tongue was still mostly frozen when I cut it in half to use the front half for gyutan. Not so terrible, really! Cutting the tough skin was a slippery job. Luckily this was a veal tongue, much less tough and the taste buds were much smaller—almost velvety. Mr. Tess sharpened a knife to a razor edge, and I managed to cut the meat into thin slices. They could have been thinner, paper thin, but once this part was finished, it looked beautiful!

Gyutan: Grilled Tongue
serves 2 to 3
as part of a Japanese meal
recipes on-line are not common

  • grilled-tongue_41371/2 veal tongue (about 1 1/2 pounds, tip end), partially thawed
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 small bunch of green onion brushes .
    • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 2 tsp white sugar
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (chili flakes)
    • 1 pinch coarse/kosher salt
    • 1tsp toasted black sesame seeds
  • Lemon or Lime wedges
  • Dipping sauce, recipe follows

Use a razor sharp knife (and possibly vice-grip pliers) to pull the tough skin from the partially frozen meat. Yes, a very messy and somewhat scary necessity! Not quite so disturbing with a calf tongue as it would be with an ox or cow tongue. Re-freeze the meat, and slice as thinly as you can. Paper thin is the goal!
Sprinkle salt over the tongue slices, then brush them with oil.
Make the green onion brushes. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, oil chili flakes, and salt in a small bowl. Toss the onions with the mixture and garnish with the sesame seeds.
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add a batch of the thinly sliced tongue to the pan, in a single layer. Brush the slices with oil and turn over quickly. Cooking time is about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate, and cook another batch. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
Garnish with the green onion brushes.
Serve with lemon or lime wedges, dipping sauce, and plain white rice and pickles.

Dipping Sauce
Yummy link for this!

  • Grilled Tongue1 teaspoon of miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, grated finely

Add all ingredients together and stir together.

Served with rice, summer squash namul, and Senmaizuke Turnip and Kombu Tsukemono.

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Buffalo Chicken Wings Gyutan Stew (Japanese Stew with Veal Tongue)
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9 thoughts on “Gyutan: Grilled Tongue

  1. Hi shelly,
    Thanks. I just realized that I didn’t add links to the tsukemono served with the meat. All together it’s a fun snack-y kind of meal with lots of variety.

  2. I must say, I could not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which indeed could be very wrong.
    p.s. You have an awesome template for your blog. Where did you find it?

  3. Tess,
    thank you for tackling Gyutan! I love to order it and am thinking about trying to cook it but, I’m not sure if I can get over the actual tongue state it comes in! I’m so happy to be fully prepared via your recipe when I’m ready to do it. I think I better hide it from my kids though, lol.
    I don’t see anything about you to read. I’m interested in why a “gaijin” is living in Japan? Thank you for your blog!

    • Hi Stephenie!

      Oh yes, it is intimidating. (though I saw a blog where the woman cooked a whole pig’s head involving a saw and some other non-kitchen tools… ooo!) The tip end is less difficult than the base, young veal is better than cow, and partly frozen helps!

      And don’t let your kids see it! My daughter is 30, and I wouldn’t let her see it. Years ago we knew a farmer who had a ewe which got out and got pregnant out of season. He didn’t want to over-winter the lamb so he gave it to us. The catch was it was live. We found a halal butcher to, umm, prepare it. But daughter happened to look in the trunk. Yep, she was a vegetarian for months after that.

      Now, if you like tongue stew, removing the skin is way easier once it is partially cooked:

      http://1tess.wordpress.com/2009/02/09/gyutan-stew-with-veal-tongue/

      http://1tess.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/hirokos-moms-and-sisters-beef-tongue-stew/

      Thanks for reminding me about the ‘about page.’ LOL, I changed the appearance of my blog last summer and thought I’d put a link to it in the top widget on my sidebar, but no.

      http://1tess.wordpress.com/essentials/about/

      I am a gaijin, but have never been to Japan. It started as a project in a forum in 2007 and I’m still at it. …

  4. Pingback: Trying Tongue « Raising an Omnivorous Child

  5. Pingback: Dinner January 11th, 2011 – Beef Tongue A/B Testing | Geekbeast Blog

  6. Pingback: Gyu-tan | Mama Miyuki Easy Pantsy

  7. Pingback: Japanese Family Recipe: Tongue Stew « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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