Let’s discuss the hard headed monsters that attack from the ground. No, not Ankhegs, today we're discussing the terror of the Halflings, the landshark, the Bulette.
Now Bulette meat is far from a common occurrence on any culture’s tables. They are almost impossible to domesticate. Good luck trying to tame twelve feet of armored flesh that attacks anything it sees. Even if you could get them into a pen, they’ll just burrow right out. They’re also barely any easier to consistently hunt. Tracking them is a difficult feat with their quick burrowing speed. They decide when they want to appear, and it is usually not when you want them to. While they are very aggressive, they’re still ambush predators, meaning they mainly initiate when they think they have the upperhand, and they’ll flee as soon as they realize the fight isn’t going their way. They’re hungry, not suicidal, so they’d rather burrow away and find something else to eat. If you decide to pursue them down their tunnel structures, you’re a lot braver than I. Fighting them underground is a much worse prospect than above the surface. However, with all this being said, if you do come upon the chance to run into one, survive, and even slay the beast, you are in for a treat.
But before you can get to the meat inside, you need to get past its natural armor. The Bulette is covered in thick plates of extremely hardened scales. These plates layer over each other, making a sort of natural mail that is incredibly hard for a blade to pierce. These platelike scales are backed up by a thick hide that is a bit easier to pierce, but hard to cut through. Its head and appendages are made up almost entirely of that tough flesh, and as such are almost completely inedible. The butchering process then goes like so:
First, begin removing the plates. This can be done with a sturdy blade, or chisel, getting underneath the layers of each plate and breaking it off. It is tough, but brittle. I have also seen some barbarians just wail on the outside of the Bulette with a greathammer or bludgeon, but this can destroy the internal organs before removing them, imparting a foul taste on the meat. It does tenderize it nicely however.
Next, once the plates have been removed, some serrated blades are good for tearing through the thick hide. While it is a long and arduous process, it is no different than skinning another beast, so grin and bear it, it’ll be worth it.
Finally, once you have finished removing the skin, the flesh is much easier to manage. Remove the internal organs, and separate the bulette into its various cuts, almost as you would a steer. In particular, the loins, rib and flank are worth note, incredibly tender, with an intensely meaty flavor. It can be rather gamey depending on its diet, but not in the same way as Owlbear. It is far from overpoweringly putrid, and with some aromatic cooking methods, can be easily removed. Don’t feel like any complicated cooking techniques are necessary to make this meat shine; many who have had it would argue that it is a disservice to do anything but give the meat a hard sear and eat it as is.
A note on cultural consumption, or lack thereof:
While no culture commonly consumes bullette, almost any race would be happy with the prospect of having a taste. Any race except halflings. Bullettes have two favorite foods: horses and halflings. They adore the taste of halfling flesh, and as such, have become a sort of boogieman for the race. While many Halflings will happily chow down Ankhegs that pop up in their fields, the very mention of a Bulette will make their stomachs turn. This is particularly true at the dinner table. In their minds, they might be eating some of their kinfolk with extra steps. Regardless of your own opinions on the topic, it is good manners to never offer Bulette to a halfling, and maybe go somewhere else to cook it too.
Example Dish – Bulette steak
There are comparatively few suitable portions of Bullette meat in regards to its size. While an adult Bulette can weigh up to 4,000 pounds (and possibly even more as I’ve heard rumors of truly gargantuan ones in Chult), you’d be lucky to get a few hundred pounds of that in usable meat. The vast majority of the weight comes from the thick hide and scales, then the bones and organs. Because of this, each piece you do get is rather precious and can go for a pretty penny to the right buyer. Any chef working with it, will do all they can to make the experience worthwhile.
As for making a good steak, the meat is commonly salted and then left to dry for at least an hour, or in a cold place overnight. Good quality butter is then melted in a hot skillet before placing the meat in to sear. The white flesh cooks extremely quickly, retaining a heavy sear in a few minutes. Avoiding overcooking is very important to retain the natural flavor of the meat. This delicacy is almost entirely relegated to explorative gourmands and lucky adventurers.
Example Dish – Aromatic Bulette Soup
Speaking of Chult, this dish is from there. While I haven’t personally seen the truly gargantuan Bulettes that are rumored to roam those forests, I have had this amazing noodle soup that makes the most of each part of the beast.
Take the Bulette bones and place them into a stock pot, covering them with cold water. Bring the water up to a boil, and let boil for a few moments, until scum stops coming out of the bones. Then, drain all the water and wash the bones. This helps remove impurities for a much clearer broth. Now, char some onions, scallions, carrots, ginger, and garlic in the fire. You want them black and fragrant, then remove the charred skin and slice them up slightly.
Add the water back to the stockpot with the bones and the aromatics you just charred. Bring it to a boil, then drop it to a simmer. Add in your fennel, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. If you don’t have access to all of these, that’s ok, and feel free to add your own mix of spices. Cover the pot and allow it to simmer for at least 6 hour, ideally overnight. In that time, trim off whatever meat you’ll be having with it, and use the extra cuttings and offal to make Bulette meatballs.
Finally, when you’re ready to serve, add the meatballs and thicker meat to the broth to cook through. Put your noodles into a bowl along with some uncooked Bulette steak, then ladle over the hot broth. This will cook the noodles and the steak in the bowl. Garnish with chilies, limes, and chopped herbs. Enjoy!
Also check out my post on the Basilisk from last week if you missed it! It should be up on my site.
Let me know any other monsters you'd like me to cover or how you'd prepare your Bulette meat, you don't get much of it, so use it wisely.
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Fantastic Beasts and How To Eat Them – The Bulette" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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