Saddle up folks this week marks the start of Year of the Horse. Those who know me or have read this blog for a while know that I have passed more than a few Chinese New Years here in Shanghai, actually I am on my second go ’round on the zodiac wheel.
So rather than run down the traditional foods and customs of Chinese New year I thought it would be fun to look at the Year of the Horse from a more “culinary” perspective.
Horse meat or as French butchers prefer to call it “horse beef”, has long been a part of the Chinese menu. In fact China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of horse “beef”*. ( I am sure there is some bad feng shui in here somewhere). Most commonly eaten in the province of Guangxi, where you will find the local specialty, Mǎ ròu mǐfěn (马肉米粉) aka horse meat and rice noodles.
Eating (or not eating) horse meat became news about one year ago when the British Isles were rocked by a horse meat scandal when frozen lasagna labeled beef included horse meat. The problem wasn’t the horse meat but the not so truthful labeling of the “beef” in the lasagna. Actually horse meat is one of the more nutritious meats you could eat.
Horse meat is an excellent source of iron, having double the concentration of beef. From a cardiac standpoint horse meat is the overall winner as it is lower in total fat, higher in monounsaturated fat and omega 3’s ( like 5x higher ounce for ounce). The higher concentration of omega 3’s makes sense as horses are pastured raised therefore grass-fed which increases their intake of the plant sources of omega 3’s. As a bonus horses are immune to BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) so no risk of Mad”horse” in this meat.
France and China aren’t the only nations who have a passion for the ponies. Traveling to Indonesia, check out the horse meat satay and while you are in Japan grab a plate of thinly slice horse meat(Bassahi) from the sashimi train. Lest you think horse beef is only an Asian delicacy, next time you order sauerbraten be sure to ask if the roast neighs or moos. That’s right traditional German sauerbraten is made with horse meat. And then there is the rest of Europe from prosciutto de cavallo in Italy (yes ma’m that ham once wore shoes) to horse burgers in Slovenia to the classic entrecote and fried potatoes in France, horse meat has always been a part of the menu. The United States, the United Kingdom and several South American countries are about the only nations where horse meat stays in the stable.
You probably won’t find horse at your nián yè fàn 年 夜 饭 this year (fish or Yú is generally favored) but if you do , rest assured that much of the world enjoys it with you!
Xīnnián hǎo 新年好!
Eat Well, Live Well Have Fun!
Best Wishes for a Prosperous and healthy New Year of the Horse!