Chislic is one of those semi-secret regional foods that if you know, you know, and if not, well, you probably are having a hard time even forming the sound of this dish’s name in your head.
Pronounced “chiz-lick,” or in some places more like “chis-lick,” chislic is, simply, chunks of red meat grilled or fried, either on a skewer or served with toothpicks. It’s what you eat at a South Dakota bar after limiting out on pheasants, or while watching the Vikings.
Chislic is deeply South Dakotan, and in its purest form is fried mutton with garlic salt, served with Saltines on the side. But there are variations, and beef and venison chislic are common.
I’ve eaten it in various divey bars while pheasant hunting, or just passing through SoDak. I happen to like the “Buffalo wings” presentation, with hot sauce and blue cheese sauce on the side. And fries are more substantial than the Saltines, but both are good.
If you’ve heard Chef David Chang use the term “ugly delicious,” this is that and then some. Chislic is probably more “dirty delicious,” because it makes you feel that way after eating a half pound of deep-fried venison chunks with a plate of fries and, ahem, several beers.
Chislic is unusual in that it is fried directly — no coating. This darkens your oil in a hurry, and my advice is to reuse it only for future batches of chislic. Your oil needs to be hot, and you don’t want to fry the venison very long or it will be gray at the center.
So far as seasoning, keep it simple: Garlic salt is all I use. Whatever you use, avoid paprika or other chile peppers, because they will burn in the oil and turn bitter. If you need a pepper fix, get it with hot sauce.
Saltines, as I’ve mentioned, are traditional, but if you want to make your own fries, here is a good recipe for homemade French fries.
While you can eat chislic as a main meal, it’s normally a bar snack or appetizer. If you want to continue the theme, try making this with my Buffalo meatballs. (Yep, meatballs served exactly like Buffalo wings), or honey mustard wings from either pheasants or ducks.
South Dakota Chislic
- 2 pounds venison loin, cubed
- 1 tablespoon garlic salt
- Oil for frying
- Hot sauce to taste
- Blue cheese sauce to taste (optional)
- Be sure to remove any silverskin from the venison, and make the cubes about an inch across. Dust with the garlic salt.
- Fill enough oil in a heavy pot or a deep fryer to be able to submerge the venison -- you'll be cooking it in batches, so it doesn't need to be huge. Bring it to 350°F. Set out some paper towels to let the finished chislic drain.
- Pat the meat dry with paper towels and carefully drop about 1/2 pound into the fryer. It will roil violently. Let the venison fry for about 2 minutes, then move it to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining venison, a 1/2 pound at a time.
- Serve with toothpicks, hot sauce, blue cheese sauce, beer, and fries or Saltines.
Raccoon chislic is pretty good too.
Jason Stee says
This was my favorite meal as a child! I have never tried it with hot sauce though. Dipping the meat in hot melted butter was the way to go. We are going for a slightly different “mutton” as the next batch will be dall sheep.
Vern Munion says
I’m 70 years old and my dad owned a tavern in Huron, South Dakota when I was born. He served mutton chislick and said everyone loved it even if they didn’t like mutton. I never ever had it as he never made it after I was born. I’ve gotta try it now.
Hank Shaw says
Vern: Mutton! That’s pretty cool. It’s rare to see people eat it here in the US anymore. I happen to like it.
I,too, had chislic for the first time in Huron , SD when I taught at the college there. I have to wonder if it might have been your dad’s tavern where I enjoyed this treat. Just a few weeks ago on my travels through Mitchell, I got to enjoy chislic again after many years.
We tried duck chislic today and it was amazing! Absolutely my new favorite for duck, we tried a variety of spices as well as plain and cajun beer batter. They all were fantastic even my kids who don’t like duck loved it.
Sounds delicious. Here in Detroit I’ve had something similar with beef. They marinate the beef overnight in a mix of Frank’s hot sauce and Soya sauce. Fry it (no covering) and serve with salty toast. They probably pat it dry before frying I would guess.
Matthew Haase says
Hi Hank. What temperature should the meat be when you put it in the fyer? Room temp or from the fridge? Are both fine and just yield different results?
Hank Shaw says
Matthew: Cold. I want it to still be pink inside.
JOSHUA ADRIAN says
too funny I Just listened to Tom Brokaw talk about Chislic on the Meateater podcast today!
Samantha L Gornowicz says
Holy Hannah, i like pheasant but not nearly half as much as I love mutton
Could you use cumin in the seasoning, or will it burn as well?
Hank Shaw says
Chris: It would burn. If you want cumin, dust it on the meat the moment it comes out of the fryer.
Rodney Onstad says
Could you use a trimmed and cubed venison Roast for this?
Hank Shaw says
Rodney: Absolutely! I’ve used that before with good success.
Chislic sounds a bit like ‘shashlik’ – i.e. shish kebab. Any chance that’s where the name originates? Do you have Eastern European communities in South Dakota? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shashlik#:~:text=Shashlik%2C%20or%20shashlyk%2C%20is%20a,much%20of%20the%20Russian%20Empire.
Hank Shaw says
Taissa: They actually think that might be the origin of chislic, because yes, there are Eastern European communities there.
I’m going to try goose Chislic this season!
Matthew Mead says
Hello Ralph. Let me know how the goose Chislic turns out, that sounds delicious!
Neil King says
Just had some Chilic tonight for dinner at our local bar ( The Wooden Nickle) in Crooks SD.