TRIPE. Not everyone’s favourite food topic. You either love it or hate it.
Tripe comes from the stomach of cows, pigs, sheep and even deer. Beef tripe consists of the first three chambers of the cow’s stomach. There’s the smooth tripe called the ‘rumen’, the honeycomb tripe known as the ‘reticulum’ and the book/leaf tripe called the ‘omasum’. I’ve tried all three kinds and in general, tripe doesn’t have much taste on its own. The various ridges and flaps absorb the sauces and spices really well which then makes the dish so flavourful.
The type of tripe that I have consumed the most, is steamed tripe – done Chinese dim sum style. The book tripe (‘omasum’) is usually used in this dish. The tripe is steamed with ginger, garlic and spring onions. Many people think that strong spices are required to make the tripe more ‘edible’. However, this delicious version is mild, with a clean and crisp flavour. There is a bit of a bite in the tripe which gives the texture of the dish that added level of oomph. (This texture has been a turn-off for many) but the rest of us tripe-lovers do enjoy the extra chew.
Portuguese style tripe is a typical and popular dish in Porto and is aptly named Tripas a Moda do Porto. This version of tripe is cooked with white beans. It is a very hearty dish with generous chunks of tripe (mainly honeycomb and flat tripe) in a tomato based sauce and a sprinkling of dried herbs. The dish is eaten with ‘arroz branco’ (white rice). The tripe is chewy and the combination of the white beans gives the dish a slightly creamy taste.
Now come the italians. I love italian food. A humble piece of tripe (again the honeycomb and flat tripe) can be transformed to a rich stew in the form of Trippa alla Romana, found mainly in Rome (but can also be found in many other parts of the country). Trippa alla Romana is cooked with the ‘stew basics’ like celery, carrot and onion as well as wine, tomatoes and roman mint. Tender pieces of tomato-coated tripe topped with the italian touch of grated parmegiano or pecorino. It is eaten on its own just as you would any stew, aided by some sauce mopping action with chunks of bread. Totally divine…
If you intend to cook tripe at home, it is highly recommended that the tripe is washed and cleaned meticulously. And prior to cooking in sauce or as a stew, the tripe has to be boiled in salted water for two to three hours to soften and further clean it. It’s a lot of work! Which is why I leave the cooking to the experts.