Beef tripe, one of my top 10 favorite foods! For real.
If tripe is on the menu, I will order it. I have such a weakness for it that my husband has used it to bribe me (usually to get me to spend time with my in-laws).
Yes, it's the stomach of a cow. Get over it. Do I have to remind you what's in a hot dog? There's just something so unique about the flavor of tripe that keeps me coming back for more. So unique, in fact, that I'm kinda at a loss for words on how to describe it (tripe lovers, please help me out here!)
I've seen tripe described as gamey or barnyard-y, but I think those words tend to be overused when referring to offal or leftover cuts of meat and only result in scaring people off. 'Gamey' makes me think of mutton. And 'barnyard-y' is how I might describe a fresh goat cheese, but not tripe. The flavor's actually really mild. Earthy? No, mushrooms and truffles are earthy, not tripe. Grassy? Not really, but I do find something kinda bright and fresh about it. And the texture will vary depending on the cooking method and the kind of tripe used (a cow does have 4 stomachs, afterall) but can range from pleasantly crunchy to melt-in-your mouth tender.
I usually satisfy my craving for tripe at dim sum restaurants or Asian noodle houses, but I've also enjoyed a hearty tripe gratinée at Pastis (NYC) and a tender stewed tripe in marinara sauce at an Italian wedding in Long Island.
Growing up in a Chinese family, I probably ate tripe more often than hamburgers. And from what I can remember, I've always liked tripe and never had to acquire a taste for it. But I couldn't help but wonder whether my fondness for tripe is purely nostalgic.
This is where Hubby Kris comes in handy, he's still an offal 'novice' but always such a good sport when dealing with one of my weird food obsessions. I've made Hubby Kris try beef tripe several times at dim sum, and since he's never objected, I've always assumed he liked it. I managed to get in a quick Q&A session while hubby was getting ready for work this morning:
Phyllis: Tell me how you feel about tripe.
Kris: Good morning to you too. Tripe, well...um...it's just OKAY. I don't hate it or anything. But it's not something I would ever order on my own.
Phyllis: Why not?
Kris: Is this for Weird Food Wednesdays?
Phyllis: Just answer the question!
Kris: Well...cause it doesn't really taste like anything. And it's chewy, like calamari.
Phyllis: But you LOVE calamari!
Kris: Yeah, but that's because it's battered and deep fried. How come no one ever deep fries tripe?
***end of Q&A***
So what I've gathered from this conversation is that my hubby is currently indifferent about tripe but would probably love it if I battered and deep fried it for him (flashback to tempura gefilte fish). Hmmm...maybe my undying love of beef tripe does stem from childhood memories.
Well, perhaps I can entice you with some yummy dim sum photos...
Beef Tripe stewed in a delicate ginger and scallion sauce at The Orient Restaurant, Bethpage NY:
I almost ate the entire dish myself! Fragrant ginger and scallion, crunchy, chewy, and texturally interesting with the tiny bumps of the bible tripe:
Stewed Beef Tendon with Beef Tripes at Golden Harvest Restaurant in Vancouver, BC:
Juicy succulent pieces of honeycomb tripe stewed in a glistening curry garlic sauce (natural nooks and crannies deliver more of the mouthwatering sauce in every bite):
Golden Harvest used to offer this dish with beef tripe only, so I was initially upset that some of my beloved tripe was replaced by tendon. But the tendon was awesome - gelatinous melt-in-your-mouth perfection (and hubby's favorite):
An interesting surprise in the bottom of the dish - french fries to soak up the excess sauce (or what my cousin Francis jokingly referred to as 'Chinese poutine'):
So I bet you're dying to try it now, right?
Seriously, guys...just trust me on this one, it's really GOOD. Yeah, I know, I still haven't given you a good answer about the flavor of tripe. But you know who'd be a good person to ask? The person who developed the simulated tripe flavor for Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean. I mean, there can't actually be ground up tripe in a Jelly Belly, right?
And my darling hubby will be thrilled to learn that people actually do deep-fry tripe:
Here's the recipe: Deep Fried Tripe from UK chef Fergus Henderson
Well, if dim sum and deep fried tripe don't float your boat, check out Wikipedia for an extensive list of international delicacies that feature tripe (menudo, mondongo, and pacalpörkölt are next on my list). So go out and get your tripe on!
p.s. This will be my last weekly installment of Weird Food Wednesdays :(
p.p.s. I'm not retiring WFW for good, I just won't be doing it on a self-imposed weekly deadline anymore :)