Bone marrow is a semi-solid tissue found at the center of bones. There is, of course, a medical definition but this is a food blog so we’ll limit the discussion of bone marrow as food.
Marrow from cattle and sheep is the most common. Not necessarily because the marrow in their bones is more flavorful but more because they are larger animals. To get substantial amounts of bone marrow, you have to get it from the large bones of large animals. The bone from the shank of cattle and sheep is always a good source.
What does bone marrow taste like?
The best description I can give is umami butter but lighter and more delicate in texture. That’s how it is irrespective of the cooking method. But when grilled or roasted, it acquires a subtle nutty flavor and aroma.
In which cuisines do we find bone marrow?
Let me start with home. In the Philippines, there’s bulalo, a beef and vegetable soup served with bone marrow. In Central Philippines, a similar dish is called kansi with a sour broth made with batuan (Garcinia binucao).
From the Indian subcontinent, there is Nulli Nihari, a stew cooked over low heat for six to eight hours in vessels sealed with dough to keep the moisture in. Traditionally cooked overnight, it is enjoyed in the morning with flatbread like roti or naan.
The classic French pot-au-feu includes bone-in beef cuts with the bone marrow. The stew is served with bread and the marrow is often spread on bread. Yes, like butter.
Osso buco from Lombardy is a stew of cross-cut bone-in veal shanks with marrow. In Italian, osso means “bone” and buco means “hole”. The name of the dish itself is a reference to the marrow in the bone so a beef stew cooked without the marrow is not, strictly speaking, osso buco.
In Hungary, csontvelő is an appetizer of beef bones served with bread. The marrow from the bones is scooped with a small spoon or a butter knife and spread on bread. Another Hungarian dish with bone marrow is the soup called húsleves.
And that’s a pretty short list, really. Just enough to show that eating bone marrow is not an Asian thing exclusively.