Even though I tend to eat “normal” food most of the time, when opportunity arises I like to experiment and dive mouth first into the strange and exotic. As traditional Colombian fare uses every part of the animal imaginable in the kitchen, finding unorthodox menus is not a hard task here. These people don’t like to waste food. All those parts of cow, pig and chicken that we so easily dispose in the west is certainly not wasted in Colombia. Boil it, grill it, stuff it or fry it but just don’t chuck it seems to be the Colombian approach. Since moving here I have eaten intestines, tripe, pig feet, chicken’s feet (I’m Asian so no biggie), brains and gizzards. After all, good food and good eating as international foodie hero Anthony Bourdain notes, is all about risk.
Last weekend, an opportunity to do some local food research arose in the form of a couple of stuffed hen necks. Yes, you read that correctly, neck of hen (with head attached). While that may sound weird (it is) and outright nasty (it is not), pescuezo de gallina relleno is strangely tasty.
The preparation isn’t exactly easy like whipping up an arepa. First, the neck is cut at the base and all its contents are removed except for the skull. Separately, a stuffing of blood, peas, rice, potatoes and chicken parts is prepared and cooked together with a bunch of herbs and spices. The neck is then filled with the stuffing, sewn and roasted. It’s like a pro version of a morcilla (Colombian blood sausage). The end result looks like this:
As delicious as hen necks are, it’s not commonly available at restaurants. As presentation is one of the key factors in the success of a restaurant, I don’t imagine many patrons would like to look into the eye of the animal they are just about to consume. You can find them at eateries that specialise in roasted hen. A friend of mine told me they are available at almost every corner in the department of Boyacá, where hens are eaten regularly. I only know a handful of places in Bogota that offer this specialty, which is usually a Sunday fare.
Don’t let the picture fool you, these things are definitely worth a try. Once you get over the fact that there’s a dead hen on your plate, you’ll notice that the stuffing is moist and flavourful like paella.