These days, everyone’s a foodie right? Your average car park of street food vans offers more variety and choice than our great grandparents could have ever dreamed off. And yet for all that ‘look at me I’m soooo culinary curious’ nearly everyone draws the line at eating balls.
Because make no mistake, back in great grandma’s day, she probably wouldn’t have been so squeamish. In the past, offal such as liver, kidney, brains, sweetbreads and testicles, was much more commonly available. These days the only balls you’ll find in butchers‘ shops are probably still attached to the man behind the counter.
But there’s a rich history of eating testicles in many cuisines and cultures. As a food journalist, I get sent a lot of cookery books, but Testicles: Balls in Cooking and Culture certainly made for eye watering reading when it first landed on my desk a few years ago.
French author Blandine Vié’s work looks at not only recipes (including ‘bollocks in the nest’, I kid you not) but the wider cultural issues and facts about human beings and our relationship with animals’ balls.
The book is also peppered with facts such as ‘the donkey possesses the largest penis to body mass ratio of any animal’, which no doubt led to the the phrase ‘hung like a donkey’. But so much for history, where can you eat testicles in London today?
Here’s where to eat testicles in London
For the best balls in London, head to family-owned Testi in Stoke Newington, a Turkish ocakbaşı, or grill restaurant, that cranks out mouth watering lamb chops, chicken, liver – and testicles – all cooked over hot coals. Despite most people thinking the place is aptly named, a testi is in fact a clay serving jug, and it’s from this that the restaurant takes its name. But back to those balls, or Koç Yumurtası as they’re listed on the menu, what do they taste like and how are they cooked?
First the testicles are soaked in water to relax them and make them easier to cut. Then the outer membrane is removed and the pieces are marinated in olive oil and spices such as paprika, before being threaded onto metal skewers and placed over the hot coals.
And in the mouth? The taste is soft, creamy, with a slight offal-like taste. Of course at Testi they come coated in a slightly spicy sauce, and pick up a little smoky flavour from the grill, which goes some way to improving their flavour (you can read a review of the experience here). Because let’s be honest, raw testicles – swollen orbs with the odd purple vein – don’t look that tempting.
So it is to the cuisines of Turkey and North Africa that we must look to keep the dream alive, as well as, as Testy Festy, which is, as one reporter once put it, ‘a bunch of bikers gathered to eat fried cattle genitals’.