My mother’s beef tongue stew

Posted on Apr 22, 2009 in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes

Upon receiving my request for my mother’s delicious beef tongue stew recipe my Mom with a help with my sister, Yoko, produced the dish after many years of not making it since I left home.  My Mom had an

excellent excuse to make her beloved beef tongue stew again.  Buzz, my husband, who currently staying in

Tokyo for many weeks has become a regular Sunday dinner guest at my Mom’s house, and was therefore an ideal Guinea pig to taste the long-forgotten tongue stew.  After carefully comparing the price, size and quality of beef tongue at different food stores and butchers (she is very meticulous), she settled on a 4 pound piece which had a hefty price tab – 13,880 yen ($138)!!!  She told Buzz over the dinner that the beef tongue which she first purchased 52 years ago cost 500 yen ($5 at today’s exchange rate; $1.45 in 1957 dollars) for a slightly smaller tongue.  The butcher who sold the tongue to her back at that time could not believe that someone would cook and eat beef tongue, and, out of his curiosity he gave her couple of pig tongues free of charge.

How my Mom and Yoko worked together for the creation of the dish is…my Mom asked Yoko to prepare her recipe which she acquired in Tokyo while she took many French cooking classes from a Japanese expatriate wife who lived in Paris, France, several years.  My Mom wanted to compare Yoko’s recipe with her own, which derived from the French recipe introduced to Japan around the beginning of 20th century at the time when red wine, tomato paste and celery were not available for home cooks.  Then, my Mom told Yoko that she will offer references to her recipe.  Below is the recipe which Yoko used, and my Mom’s reference is written in italic.  The idea of using apple and orange peels in the recipe comes from my Mom’s sister, Hisako.  In Japan we peel all fruits before we eat them and so we end up with lots of fruit peels.  Hisako learned to avoid wasting these precious leftovers and used the peels to enhance the flavor of German-Style Beef Stew that she learned to prepare in the 1930s at an elite women’s finishing school in Tokyo that specialized in training woman in all the arts of house keeping, family raising and entertaining.  Such schools probably do not exist today.

4 pound beef tongue, skin removed

1 quart chopped mixed onion, carrot and celery: my Mom used potato, carrot, onion and cabbage

Generous amount of carrot, celery stalks, parsley stalks, onion and laurel leaf: my Mom had not access to celery stalks, parsley stalks and laurel leaf

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup tomato paste: my Mom used apple peel, Tnagerine peel and Bulldog brand Worcestershire sauce – this Japanized Worcestershire sauce has thicker texture and fruitier flavor than original Worcestershire sauce


1. Clean beef tongue under running tap water.  Place tongue and enough water to cover in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Cook tongue for 10 minutes.

2. Drain tongue and rinse it under running tap water.  In a large pot bring water to a boil (Yoko used a whole bottle of red wine along wiht some water), add generous amount of carrot, celery stalks, parsley stalks, onion, laurel leaf and tongue, and cook for 3 1/2 hours.

3. In a skillet add vegetable oil and sautee chopped vegetables until golden brown.  Add flour and continue to cook until golden.  Add beef tongue cooking liquid to the skillet along with tomato paste or apple peel, orange peel and Bulldock Worcestershire sauce.  Cook the mixture for 30 minutes and strain through a fine sieve, reserving vegetables.  Press vegetables through a fine sieve and put it back to the strained broth.

4. Cut cooked tongue into 1/2-inch thick slices, and transfer them to the broth.  Warm beef tongue and serve with cooked potato, Brussels sprouts and string beans.