About Cow Brains and Bull Testicles

Happy #traveltuesday my wonderful readers! How goes it? Here is my buddy Nellie who hails from Singapore but is living in Spain, with a great Travel Tip on some rather bizarre local food, to perk up your Tuesday, pronto!

From the outrageously tasty seafood paella to the holy grail of all meat, Jámon Iberico (cured ham), Spanish food is an explosion of Mediterranean flavors and colors. But let’s shelve aside the conventional dishes, and get slightly off the beaten culinary path.  If you think Spanish food is just tapas, paella and sangria. Think again.
For the adventurous eater, Spain is a paradise packed with bizarre culinary encounters. Don’t expect to find explicit fare like sheep’s head or grasshoppers, the Spaniards are after all milder eaters in comparison. This list of strange foods in Spain might not appear too daunting for us Asians, but wait till you get your hands on them; you’ll see what I mean.

1. Tripe Stew (Callos)

Flickr photo by jlastras

Perhaps the most famous exotic dish in Spain, Callos is a concoction of tripes, internal organs, sausages and basically, all of the unwanted parts of a pig. The Spaniards are a carnivorous bunch of people, consuming more pork than any other countries in the world. Evidently, nothing goes to waste here in Spain, any organs that are unused go right into the pot. Callos was originated in Madrid, so it goes without saying that you’ll be able to find the best and most authentic callos in the Spanish capital.

2. Bull’s Testicles

Filckr photo by g_squared

Known affectionately as ‘criadillas’ in Spanish, bull’s testicles are quite a delicacy in Spain. Sliced into fillets, the testicles are then pan-fried with garlic, oregano and parsley. In several restaurants, they also cook the testicles on grills, giving it a rather smoky flavor. Bulls symbolize bravery and strength. Like they say, you are what you eat.

3. Pig’s Ears

Flickr photo by petezin

Crunchy on the inside (imagine biting on cartilage) and slightly fatty on the outside, pig’s ears have that unique flavor unlike any other offal dishes.  To attain such refine taste, the ears are cut up into cubes and then deep-fried in pig’s oil. Particularly popular in Madrid, the ears are quite a savory snack throughout Spain. Known as orejas (literally meaning ‘ears’), this dish is usually served in traditional taverns and tapas bars.

4. Blood Sausages

Flickr photo by ostrosky

Black, ruddy sausages made up of blood, fats and offals are hugely popular among the locals, especially in Southern Spain.  Usually served as a bocadillo (sandwich) or combined with potatoes and fried capsicum, morcilla looks just like any other sausage on the outside. Cut it into half and you’ll taste that distinct flavor as well as a tofu-like texture. I’d highly recommend morcillas in the Alpujarras, a cluster of mountainous villages in Andalusia.

5. Cow Brains

Flickr photo by jlastras

Sesos, or cow brains, are usually eaten with bread or rice in Spain. With a mushy texture, the brains have little flavor on its own and are usually accentuated with a constellation of condiments. Mind you, the brain is one of the best sources of healthy oils in animal meat, so if you’re healthy conscious, it’s time to try out some brains for a change.

About this weeks Guest writer:

Nellie Huang writes about Spain travel for WhyGoSpain, BootsnAll’s comprehensive Spain travel guide.

As a freelance travel writer, Nellie Huang’s writing style is characterized by her outlook in life: positivity and passion. A love for the unknown and an eye for adventure have made her a modern-day nomad. Obtaining a degree in Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and a study program in the University of Miami (U.S.), she writes for a living – combining her wanderlust and love for words.

The Singaporean native currently calls Granada home, and shares her Spain travel tips and anecdotes on Twitter. 


  • Jen Laceda says:

    Hi, i’ve had bull’s testicles at a Persian/Iranian resto. It’s a specialty of their country as well; they’re called Don Bala in Farsi 🙂

    • Darius Gholizadeh says:

      Dear Jen, I am a native of Iran. I’m afraid this term “Don bala” is something we throw out, not consume. In fact, it is against halal regulations of Islam to consume bulls’ balls.

  • Brother B says:

    i could hear my stomach turned

  • Sean says:

    i wanna try them all! bull’s testicles, pig ears and blood sausages are available in KL too, but i’m sure the spanish way of cooking them will be very different and interesting enough to check out. only 2 more months till my trip to madrid, yay! 😀

  • mimid3vils says:

    oh…really 1 2 vomit seeing the testicles >.<, but the pattern "printed" is quite attractive 😛

  • Liana says:

    I had no idea tripe stew was Spanish! I’ve had it before at my bf’s house…an Italian version though..in a spicy tomato sauce with black olives. It was delish…I think it’s still abit early for me to be turned on by the rest though:S

  • Marnie Alvez says:

    Most of these dishes are available in the Philippines =) the tripe stew is one of my favorites! Cooked the same way too. Cow brains is good too but I prefer the Persian way of cooking.. topped with lots of yogurt mixed with garlic =) Mei let me know if you’re planning to fly to Manila in the future! I hope I’m also around to tour you and let you try Manila’s various restaurants and street stalls!

  • Hmmmm, I think we can find some of the same ingredients on the streets of KL. But I’m sure none of them taste the same as those Nellie has describe. Testicles tapas! Brilliant!

  • A lot of this is in Asia too. But not so …. Nice looking?

    Not that I am saying bulls testicles are good looking. But over here they kinda smash em up into a mush. Yes, I’ll be feature them soon too.

    (where’s the little fat monkey guy now?) 🙂

    • cumi&ciki says:


      Thank you for all your cute and amusing comments.. very interesting!

      Let me just say that being CHINESE and all, we (and me) will eat anything with it’s back to the sun (that is not endangered)!! serious.. the only thing i would not eat would be that CAT from @amateursafrica posted on SA weird street food. I also will not eat anything that can be considered a PET .. like dog, rabbit nor turtle etc etc..

      Thanks Nellie.. superb post.. can’t wait to visit you in Spain;)

  • *wave hands at Dave* I’m here! Still alive.

  • eiling says:

    *oggles at the bull’s testicles” OMG that’s very “unappetizing” hehe

  • Nellie says:

    Mei, thanks for publishing this post! Looks like everyone’s slightly turned off by the look of it, but hey, you gotta dip your hands in them and I’m sure they’ll blow your mind away.

  • Wow, people in Spain really don’t let anything go to waste…even bull’s testicles :S not very appetizing, but one will have to taste it to believe it. Thanks for sharing! Singapore Shop Girl*

  • I love love love blood sausages! Never tried bull’s testicles, but errr….bald eagle’s testicles count or not? 😛 rofl.

  • sarah says:

    hmm never had those and not sure if I’ll ever came across it.

    • that guy says:

      eagles dont have testicles but i saw some people in the florida everglades eating python ventricle If you dont know what it is dont ask…

  • coloepter says:

    Bulls’ testicles? OMG Nellie, you have no idea. OUCH!!! Think of all those pain receptors you’re chewing on : { and be glad you have a vagina instead : )

  • coloepter says:

    Just learned of an interesting euphemism: In some Vietnamese pho restaurants beef testicles are referred to on the menu as “bull pendulum”.

  • coloepter says:

    Re criadillas, I hear they put hair on your vagina.
    “Like they say, you are what you eat.”

  • If you come to Granada, in southern Spain, you should try Tortilla Sacromonte, made up of pig brains and some local herbs. It may sound weird, but believe us, it tastes wonderful.

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