Lamb testicles for sale in the souk in Damascus — these are a lot more veined than the norm; also it is not often that you find them hung like this. The butcher peels and discards the outer membrane before weighing and cutting them the way you want.
A few days ago, Serious Eats tweeted about yak testicles. I have never tried them but I love lamb testicles and have been eating them forever. Well, from when I could chew. They are considered a great delicacy in Lebanon and I find their soft, melting texture and subtle flavour irresistible. Of course, they need to be very fresh for that subtle, clean taste but this is not a problem in the Middle East where they slaughter lambs and sell the meat and offal the same day.
I have to say, I am very lucky. I have wonderful friends who I can stay with all over the world and just recently, I’ve been in Tehran, staying with my lovely friend, Nasrine Faghih. I didn’t expect Tehran to be an easy city but thanks to Nasrine and a charming young friend of hers, Ali who was my guide while I was there, I actually had a great time. Ali took me to lots of different places, including the big bazaar which I didn’t actually like much. It is nowhere near as magical as the souks of Aleppo and I much preferred Tajrish, the small bazaar near Nasrine’s home, which was way more exciting. Still the big bazaar was fun, and definitely worth visiting if only for people watching.
But what was far more interesting was the little cook-shop (called tabbakhi in Persian) just outside the main entrance to the bazaar, on the other side of the street, specializing in lamb’s heads and tripe. Some of you may know that I can’t resist offal ( I did after all write The Fifth Quarter) and as soon as I spotted the heads soaking in a large tub of broth, I dragged Ali inside.
It’s not that I like gruesome foods that much. The ants I ate recently in Brazil were quite repulsive. The camel kebabs were OK although I am not rushing back to the camel butcher any time soon. As for the worms I had in South Africa, they were pretty boring. However, nothing I have seen is a patch on the penises I spotted for sale at a bovine butcher in Sao Paulo’s central market.
The butcher said he sold them to Chinese people to cook in soup for medicinal purposes. He did say what the purpose was but I am going senile (sadly not prematurely any longer) and I forgot what the purpose was, but it wasn’t aphrodisiac. Anyone who knows, please write and tell me. There was nowhere I could go in the market to taste them but for anyone wanting to eat edible penises, here is where to go.