Blood doesn’t have a taste exactly. It’s more of a feeling or an ambiance. Rich, certainly, with body and a robustness.

The essence of eating blood haunts. For me, the experience has the sincere, yet very disturbing character of a funeral home with the smiling but eerie director and the pervasive scent of overly sweet lilies. Even with the best and most subtle blood preparations, blood left me unsettled hours later.

Blood dishes are associated with immigrant communities and often evoke a sense of nostalgia and comfort for modern eaters. Most cuisines have some vehicle for using the protein-rich slaughter byproduct, but often the dish is dressed with salt, onions and garlic, similar to liver. Blood exists in a medium: a soup or porridge, or soaked into rice and noodles then stuffed into sausage.

Silicon Valley is rich in restaurants with blood on the menu. Korean sundae, Spanish morcilla and Vietnamese soups featuring duck or pork blood. In sampling a number of preparations, the character of the ingredient can be seen more clearly, like examining multiple facets of a gem to find the interior luster-and the hidden flaws.

The Vietnamese enjoy a complex soup from Hue, bœn b˜ Hue, which has a specialist restaurant devoted to it: Bun Bo Hue An Nam. The soups use clotted pig’s blood as one ingredient among many, and the exact taste contributes but is a minor component.

Binh Minh  specializes in tiet Cahn, dishes with coagulated duck’s blood. In these dishes, the character of blood is front and center.

Two tapas bars in San Jose include Spanish blood sausage: morcilla. Picasso’s and La Catalana serve the same preparation. The sausage is first boiled, then cut into 1/2-inch bites, then saut-ed with garlic, onions, and peppers.

La Catalana, located near Cisco, is a joy of a restaurant that deserves greater fame. The owners of this true mom-and-pop shop are natives of Catalonia and take pride in their small strip-mall outpost of the Iberian peninsula. A flag of Barcelona’s champion soccer team adorns the wall, and service is performed with pride. La Catalana closes unfortunately early, at 8pm.

The restaurant cuts no corners and stands with the best. The sausage perfectly balances the garlic and peppers, and the peppers are an unusual Spanish variety. The depth of the blood is complemented and muted into a marvelous combination.

Picasso’s tapas bar, in downtown San Jose, squarely on Santa Clara Street, has a warmer and more relaxed atmosphere. Open until 10pm, the restaurant stays true to the feeling of a tapas bar.

The fact that it serves morcilla ($8.99) shows a dedication to traditional tapas dishes, unlike tapas fusion restaurants. When I visited, the dish came with standard bell peppers. The trip to La Catalana is worth an extra few miles.

A friend of mine describes Korean food as the soul food of the continent. Sundae is a divisive dish with a few staunch adherents and many who don’t prefer it. The dish isn’t considered a restaurant food. It’s either bought at a butcher’s and cooked at home, or eaten as street food on a stick.

Like a traditional hot dog for many local Koreans, sundae is comforting and nostalgic at best, or outdated at the worst. The sausage can be prepared as a complex dish but is often eaten with no sauce and only dipped in a mixture of salt and hot pepper.

For the home-cooked experience, Hankook Market in Sunnyvale sells sundae by the pound and is a fun food outing. On weekends, the market is packed but has a broad variety of samples and tastes. The banchan bar allows purchasing a wide variety of items, all by weight, allowing a selection broader than individual Korean restaurants.

In the same shopping center, Jang Tu, serves the same sausage but cooked and delivered to your table ($7.99). The restaurant is very casual with little English spoken. The sausage was revelatory, as there was no adjunct-no garlic or peppers.

Unadulterated blood, held together by neutral noodles and meal, made the power and texture concentrated and unavoidable. The dish was unctuous, in the sense of “marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness.” While I was unable to finish the several pounds of sausage at my table, the dish made sense of blood cuisine.

Unlike most meat, sundae places you face to face with the simple fact that meat is made of animals and we share the same blood. Unsettling, perhaps, but an eloquent truth that bears remembering.

Bun Bo Hue An Nam
740 Story Road, San Jose; 408.993.1755.

Binh Minh
1006 E .Santa Clara St., San Jose; 408.297.9868.

62 West Santa Clara St.; San Jose. 408.298.4400

La Catalana
3720 N. First St., San Jose; 408.324.1321.

Hankook Market
1092 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale; 408.244.0871.

Jang Tu
1012 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale; 408.245.5720.