Deep in the heart of Binondo, the Chinatown district of Manila, a small, well-known second floor restaurant sits. La Mezzanine serves up many local dishes, but there was one in particular I went out of my way to come get. Soup #5. Now this, this is not your average soup. Yes, it is a broth and it is eaten with a spoon. What makes it unique, obscure, something many would shy away from and find down right disgusting is what is floating in this rich beef broth.
I’d first heard about this soup watching travel food shows long before I started traveling myself and again when I took a food tour of Binondo with Old Manila Walks. Ivan Man Dy, our guide made mention of it, but due to popularity or lack thereof, it wasn’t a featured stop. Understandably so, but upon my return to Manila a couple weeks later, I made a point of getting myself a bowl.
So what’s in this numbered soup you may ask? Just some genitalia… no big deal.
As usual when it comes to this kind of obscurity, it is primarily eaten by men to make you ‘strong’ (stiff arm motion they always make when describing the ‘benefits’). The main ingredients are bull’s penis and testicle. Now I bet the name makes sense. I mean what could you really name this to make it sound appetizing? Instead, appeal to the mysterious side of things.
As it was set in front of me, I noticed a chicken foot as well giving some sense of familiarity. I spooned it around a couple times looking at the daunting chunks of penis. Beginning with a few sips of the broth, it was delicious. A deep amber colour with a rich beefiness to it. Being from Canada, we call them ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters’ or ‘Prairie Oysters’, but I’d still never tried bull’s testicles. I thought I’d start with those. The texture of a pate with a minor taste of liver, they were quite good. Probably not something I’m going to pick up at the grocery store, but good.
We all know what’s left. Cut in half lengthwise and into 1 inch chunks, the appearance really wasn’t hiding anything. The only thing to do is put it in your mouth and chew. Suppressing the idea of what I just did, I was pleasantly surprised with the flavour. There was no odd taste or even texture to it. Without knowing what I had done, I would have simply guessed it was a fatty chunk of tender stewing beef. After the first bite was down, I finished the bowl without thought leaving it empty except the bones of the chicken foot.
If you’re looking for something new and obscure to add to your list of exotic eats, make your way down to Binondo and try a piece of the bull you probably never thought you would. It’s worth a try amongst all the exotic eats you’ll find in town, but definitely won’t be everybody’s cup of soup.
Have you ever had this or would you even be willing to try? Comment to let me know your thoughts!