The agony and ecstasy of menudo – honeycomb tripe vs. leaf tripe
- rworange May 17, 2007 09:24 AM
The first time I had menudo it was amazing. The tripe almost as soft and succulent as bone marrow.
The second bowl of menudo ... well, I swear the cow was still attached and mooing ... ick.
So, in a review of a local restaurant, I learn there's two types of tripe ...
"Diana Kennedy writes that smooth tripe, the kind Mexican cooks call callo, or toalla in the Yucatan ("towel" tripe, on account of its relative smoothness), is best. Samiljan calls it leaf tripe, the lining from one of a cow's four stomachs that's smaller than the large organ where the honeycomb stuff comes from, meaning there's less of it to go around."
So, how would I ask in Spanish about the type of tripe they are using. I would want to ask if they are serving leaf tripe ... followed by ... "It's not honeycomb tripe, verdad?"
I've pretty much stopped sampling menudo because it is such a game of tripe roulette. This might help me increase my chances of getting the good stuff.
There are four types of Panza.....
Libro (Ruffled... book like)
Pancita is the most tender & mild tasting... it comes from the smalles of the cow's four stomachs. And callo is what Diana Kennedy described. Cuajo & Libro is what you want to avoid. So your question could be:
Que tipo de panza usa? Cuajo o Libro?
I find most places use a combination... and there is usually so much there that I can pick the pieces that I want and leave the rest.
BTW, in my opion... just as good as Callo is the hoolves.
My parents were visiting for Thanksgiving... so I decided to "interview" them about all typical foods they had growing up in the Jalisco highlands.... and they made a stunning revelation..... The enzymes used to make the various dairy products that were part of their daily food prep routines (Queso Fresco, Requeson etc.,) are derived from the Cuajo (Honeycomb) hence its name (the verb Cuajar means to thicken or set) which apparently contains a high amount of the enzyme Rennet (news to me).
"which apparently contains a high amount of the enzyme Rennet (news to me)"
Yup, that's why there can be "issues" for non-meat eaters and kosher-keepers with cheese. (There is such a thing as "vegetarian rennet", I have no idea what exactly it is.) There's also a higher concentration of the stuff in young animals' stomachs, no great surprise when you look at humans and our tendency to become lactose less-tolerant as we age...
In Colombia, smooth callo (tripe) is "toalla" and honeycombed is just that, "de la colmena". You could ask, "Uds se sirven el menudo con el callo tipa toalla y no de la colmena, verdad?" Or simply, "Que clase del callo viene con su menudo, la toalla y/o la de la colmena? Si sea posible, prefiero sola la toalla".
The tripe could've been prepared wrong the second time. It's a pretty finicky process cooking tripe.
In my experience Honeycomb is tenderest and the best.
The only tripe I've had that I didn't like was in my first bowl of pho, and I wasn't prepared for the rubbery chewiness...and now that I've had a whole lot more pho, I understand that the tripe in my introductory bowl was simply undercooked. Asians do like their tripe a little chewy, though, which I've gotten used to. The stewed tripe at our favorite dim sum place is only a little chewy, and insanely good.
I personally love honeycomb tripe in menudo; I think if I made some (or Philadelphia pepper pot, another big favorite) I'd try to use all the kinds (usually three) that my nearby Latino markets carry.
One more thing I should add... Menudo actually means assortment. Places that sell the same soup broth but with only one ingredient don't call it Menudo (unless you are in California where the immigrants don't necessarily stick to the traditional naming conventions). For example in Mexico City you would come see places that advertise Sopa de Pancita (usually just callo), or Sopa de Pata (hoolves) etc., that might me one way to indentify the finer versions.
I've had both smooth tripe and honeycomb tripe. I've had them both prepared well where they were delicious and succulent, and have had them prepared where they had the texture of rubber bands. I've also had the smooth tripe prepared so that it was still crunchy. I think the preparation is more essential than what type of tripe you're eating. My preference is for the honeycomb.