Chitterling Sausage / Andouillette: Very funny France, now help me erase my memory

Remember a few posts back when I described our first meal in France? Well, I was trying to be nice about it and not sound disrespectful of French cuisine. Remember the Chitterling Sausage? I just found out what it is. Please allow me to be honest about the experience.

It was described as “Chitterling sausage with two kinds of potatoes”. Bangers and mash, right? Don’t Europeans have nice, fancy sausages? To the waiter’s credit, he tried to warn us. When Charlie ordered this “French delicacy” (read “abomination”), the waiter made some discouraging remarks in French. He motioned to his stomach in a swirling motion and drew parallel lines across his stomach with his thumb and index finger.

“Does he mean that it is a big portion?” asked Charlie? I shrugged, “I think he means it is made of pork belly.” The waiter motioned to me as if he thought I should be the one ordering the dish, not Charlotte.

“No thanks, it will be fine, we’ll have the Chitterling Sausage and the Confit de Canard (duck confit).”

It arrived. It didn’t look great, but it wasn’t enough to be put off. We got stuck into our meals and Charlotte tried a bite. The outer casing of the sausage was pretty rubbery and took some sawing to get through. The inside of the  sausage was odd looking lumps. It didn’t look like your average sausage mince; it was too chunky and didn’t really stick together. Then it hit us.

It didn’t smell good. I mean it smelled terrible. When I say “terrible”, I’m not referring to any kind of “terrible” that food should ever smell like. I’ve known some unpleasant smelling dished in my time, but they were all clearly food aromas, albeit unappetizing. This was in a different league. This was the kind of terrible that would embarrass you if your bathroom smelled that way. Yes, it smelled evil. A kind of evil that took us a while to put our finger on. In the meantime (unfortunately in hindsight), Charlotte took another few apprehensive bites.

“It stinks!” Charlotte commented, “What is that?”. She holds the fork in front of her face. “It smells like B.O. No… It actually smells like poop! It’s horrible!”

And so it did. Being a good husband, and conscious no to be culturally insensitive, I told her to hide the taste in the potatoes. But no, it was an aroma of distasteful bodily functions that no amount of mashed potato or mustard could conceal. I tried a bit to see what she was complaining about. It tasted … it was hard put a finger on it … fecal.

My duck was delicious, but the waft across the table was … concerning. Needless to say, the Chitterling sausage went unfinished. As soon as the duck was finished we decided we needed to get away from the table. The smell was too much.

We walked home laughing to ourselves that we had accidentally ordered something that looked, smelled and tasted so bad. Was this a joke by the waiter? What on earth was this “Chitterling Sausage”? We vowed to look it up.

Two weeks later, the holiday is at an end, but I finally got a chance to look up what “Chitterling Sausage” is. For your reading pleasure, I will enlighten you.

Let us start with the “Chitterling” part, as I’m sure you are familiar with sausages. According to Wikipedia, the “1743 English cookery book The Lady’s Companion: or, An Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex contained a recipe for ‘Calf’s Chitterlings’, [referring to] intestine[s].” Today, chitterling generally refers to pig intestines, both the large and small. No problem there – most sausages use intestine as the wrapper. So what, then, is special about these sausages.

Well, as it turns out, Chitterling sausage is a French creation, otherwise known as Andouillette. Here is a somewhat biased description (original author’s emphasis):

The traditional Troyes andouillette is made out from quality pork products – large intestines and stomachs – attentively selected. The original recipe dates back to the Middle Ages according to the Champagne legends.

The delightful – and distinctive! – taste of the andouillette results from cutting the chitterlings lenghtwise first, and seasoning these thin stripes with onions, herbs, salt and black pepper.

The next step is to wrap the mixture with pork bowels and slowly cook these typical French sausages in a court-bouillon stock for 5 hours.

So this guy loves it, but what he is saying is that you are eating intestine wrapped in pork bowels. Bowels. Not intestines. Bowels. We’re talking colon here.

A Wikipedia author (edited since, but captured in all it’s glory here) gives a description that better reflects our experience:

French andouillette, on the other hand, is an acquired taste and can be an interesting challenge even for adventurous eaters who don’t object to the taste or aroma of feces. It is sometimes eaten cold, as in picnic baskets. Served cold and sliced thinly, the smell, taste, and texture may be mistaken for an andouille [a milder, less stinky sausage], but on closer inspection the texture is considerably more rubbery and the meat has a more feces-like flavor. By contrast, many French eateries serve andouillette as a hot dish, and foreigners have been repulsed by the aroma, to the point where they find it inedible (see external links). While hot andouillette smells of feces, food safety requires that all such matter is removed from the meat before cooking. Feces-like aroma can be attributed to the common use of the pig’s colon (chitterlings) in this sausage, and stems from the same compounds that give feces some of its odors.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we ate pig’s poo-chute sausage!

Now, I ask of you two things.

  1. Please go back and read my account of the meal. With your new found knowledge, you will see the train wreck as it occurs.
  2. Please, please, please read the comments on the site that I found the description on. While reading the comments, please imagine our unsuspecting faces as we taste and re-taste the sausage to try and pinpoint that oddly familiar taste and aroma.

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About Sammy_D

Passionate cyclist; Edible gardening geek; IT Consultant.

22 responses to “Chitterling Sausage / Andouillette: Very funny France, now help me erase my memory”

  1. Shannon Brescher Shea says :

    This sounds disgustingly hilarious. It almost makes me glad that we didn’t eat out much when we were in France – my husband probably would have ordered something like this.

    • Sammy_D says :

      Lol, it’s bad enough when someone at your table orders it.
      But if your husband orders it for you… well… I understand that ordering Chitterling Sausage for a spouse is acceptable grounds for annulment.

      • LaRochellePowa says :

        Sammy, I Think you really don’t understand what french gastronomy is…

        When you say “Chitterling Sausage and potatoes” I don’t really think you can talk about “french cuisine” ;-)

        In fact, it is from belgium…

        Did you go to a service area restaurant ?

  2. Linda Tseng says :

    Great story! We had a very similar experience tonight. We ate some delicious andouille sausage on a pizza earlier today, and saw andouillette on the menu in Nice. Thought it was a local variation on andouille…NOT.

    When it arrive, it looked so scary, like a giant, veiny male organ. And when hubby cut it open, stringy, tubular stuff came spilling out. And oh, that smell! To his credit, hubby took a deep breath and brought the fork to his mouth…

    That funky, meaty, ammonia smell…I knew immediately what it was. I’m Chinese, and growing up, mom would occasionally get nostalgic for dishes from her childhood in Nanjing, and cook up some pig intestine the old school way. She’d soak it all day, scrub the hell out of it, boil it with vinegar, cut it up into little, tiny strips, and stir fry it with tons of ginger, garlic and scallions. Even so, the odor was, shall we say, distinct, but it was tolerable, and something that imprints upon your scent memory for the rest of your life.

    This andouillette, however, was that smell x10, the offal having been concentrated into a sizzling phallic structure nearly 3 inches in diameter, so that when you cut into it, a hot stink cloud burst out and hovered over the table. After 3 courageous bites, hubby asked the waiter to take it away before he got any greener around the gills.

    I told him I knew what it was, but he said he would rather not know, and to kindly never, ever, ever mention this meal in his presence again.

    • Sammy_D says :

      That is hilarious! Thank you so much for your story. How could you ever keep that secret from your hubby? I can just imagine you using it as a threat: “It’s your turn to clean the bathroom… Don’t make me tell you what the sausage was made of!”

  3. Rachael Crombie says :

    O.M.G……….we had a very very very similar experience! i have not been able to stop laughing throughout this whole account! excellent :D

  4. mike despars says :

    Yeah, I had the same reaction. I came from germany and saw on the menu some sausage with fries. Mmmm sounds delicious. Although I didn’t smell the aroma until after I took the first bite. I had to ask the waiter to remove the plate from my table. To be honest I almost feel like puking right now just to get this crap (literally) out of my body….

  5. Chitterling Canadians says :

    omg! i cannot stop laughing at all these posts. I have just returned from a Paris cafe having ordered the “chitterling sausage”. One bite was enough for me. My husband ate half the chitterling which resembled a “a good purge” after a big mexican meal—-(and smelt like one too). we are now using as a verb for when you need to poop really bad and cannot locate a bathroom nearby—-to put it in perspective——-I gotta go chitterl reall bad!

  6. Brad Hall says :

    I unwittingly ordered and tried this in the cafe at BHV. I tried to be brave when I cut it open and the contents spilt out. I put it in my mouth and my body refused to let me swallow it. The memory of that and the smell will stay with me forever. Thanks for writing such an amusing account of your experience!!

  7. Jim Barns says :

    You guys have no sense of adventure. If properly cleaned, cooked and seasoned, chitterlings are not too bad. At least they do not grow when you chew them like brains and lungs do. Eat more possum

  8. Frances Camilleri says :

    Wish i had read yr article before ordering the chitterling sausage yesterday. Presently on holiday in France and made the terrible mistake of ordering it!!! Never again :)

  9. Nancy says :

    I can only affirm the same experience as above. From Germany, I thought anything “sausage” was a safe bet on a French menu. Damn those French! I did manage several bites before burying it under the French fries. Now, I’m feeling proud of myself for not sending it back or losing my lunch over it. Other than crepes or pastries, there’s not much on the French menu to rave about!

  10. Eric says :

    I just came across your amusing account while searching for recipes to instruct me what I can do with the andouilette I just purchased this afternoon at the local market. (Englishman living in the west of France, here.)

    One point of clarification. “Bowel” in the case of the andouilette might be a misunderstanding or mistranslation. In fact, only the large intestine is used; not the rectum (which I believe is how you understood it?)

    I am finding the results of google searches in French and English on this subject quite stark! It seems there are tons of anglophone tourists (especially Americans, it seems) who happened upon Andouilette without knowing what it is.

    I usually insist on trying regional foods wherever I am, no matter how challenging others make it out to be. There are probably a few foods that i would find difficult to master – certain traditional dishes in Iceland, or (admittedly) anything involving eyeballs)

    But I have to admit, I never understand why so many North Americans seem to have such a limited range of animals and animal parts that they consider edible! Most of the world eats offal (stomach, intenstines, liver, lungs, brain, etc.) Just what do Americans do with all the remainders of those vast quantities of animals that are butchered for meat?

    Ahh, but there is the hitch. In fact Americans eat it all the time, in disguised form, without even knowing it in all varieties of processed food!

    For your amusement, here’s a cross-cultural comparison. Which is more revolting… the preparation of andouilette? or the preparation of the classic American hot dog.

    • Linda Tseng says :

      I’m curious to hear how your home cooked andouillette fared. My French colleagues insist andouillette is delicious when it’s done right. All I know is, I’ve eaten every kind of offal including the parts used in andouillette, soaked and stir fried the Chinese way and as soul food “chitlins”, but the outhouse stinkbomb of my one and only andouillette experience was way beyond. Makes me wonder if my restaurant andouillette was made in a – ahem – half-assed way, and not with the attention, care and love maman would have devoted to it.

  11. Chris Lawrence says :

    Just tried that sausage after the waiter warned me not to. Could only manage one mouthful. Can usually eat anything but this was in a class of its own!

  12. alan says :

    I am a very fussy eater and made the mistake of ordering this thing, (gotta be safe with sausage). Even though I couldn’t put any of it in my mouth, it has still taken me over two months before I was brave enough to research what that monster was. Now I know.

  13. George McNee says :

    I have just tried these sausages. And have just read your article and am now ony way to the toilet. Unlike you I did not recognise the aroma but instead lavished it with curry sauce and proceeded to devour with mash potato. Sure to say I will not be repeating the experience soon but it is a good practice joke for the future.

  14. Evelyn says :

    Ordered andouillette today at a bouchon in Lyon. It was horrible, but after two rough bites, I’m having the same reaction. Laughing at my amazing ability to order the most unappetizing item in the gastronomical capital of France. Way to go, Evelyn! Never again!

    • Debbie says :

      OMG… same experience in Amboise , France on a mother daughter trip including my niece. My niece was warned by the waiter about the dish. Looked like a massive penis! We took pictures and laughed hysterically. The smell was putrid! This was in 2015 and we are still
      Laughing about it!

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