Tanshio vs. Gyutan: What’s the Difference?

Our family sometimes goes to a Yakiniku restaurant in our neighborhood for dinner.

Every time we dine there, I order the meat portion Tan-Shio (たん塩/タン塩: meaning Tongue Salt or Salted Tongue) at least once.

When diners order Tanshio, the Yakiniku restaurant near my house serves thinly sliced salted beef tongue, so I assumed Tanshio from a cow.

But from the snack I picked up today, I noticed that pork tongues could also be the main ingredient.

And after researching, I found out that some Japanese Yakiniku restaurants offer salted pork tongue slices under the name of Tanshio.

Now, let’s get down to the main topic.

Tan-Shio (タン塩) vs. Gyu-Tan (牛タン)

Grilling Gyutan

The salted tongue Tan-Shio (タン塩) is available at many Yakiniku restaurants in my country, where the meat is grilled on a gridiron.

Meanwhile, when we Japanese hear Gyu-Tan (牛タン), many will bring to mind Sendai’s specialty thick beef tongue slices.

Gyutan is a portmanteau formed by combining the Japanese word for cow, Gyu (牛), with the English word tongue. So unlike Tanshio, Gyutan only refers to beef tongues.

Grilled Gyutan Beef Tongue from Sendai

Sendai’s Gyutan uses carefully selected beef tongues and takes much time and labor to prepare, compared to average Tanshio slices offered by affordable Yakiniku restaurants.

Specifically, ordinary Japanese Yakiniku restaurants serve Tanshio beef/pork tongue, thinly slicing soon after removing the outer skin.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 牛タン, gyutown.com )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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