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tripas, buche, and other parts of the cow

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can anyone explain which parts of the cow these meats come from? and what can be referred to as tripe or tripas across cultures? i see a wide variety of textures and flavors in meat that is called tripe - in pho tripe is pale and crunchy, but i see it in tacos as tube-shaped and not as chewy.

it's all tasty, but i'm confused!! plus i want to make sure i order the right things....

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  1. Buche is the cheek meat. Tripe comes in three varieties, depending on which stomach it was the lining of: honeycomb, which looks kinda like that; book tripe, flat and fuzzy, and what the French call "gras double" and which I don't think I've seen, or maybe I have and didn't know it. The reason for the disparities in texture and appearance are partly due to variety, partly due to cooking method. The Vietnamese like theirs crunchy, almost rubbery, while everyone else cooks the bejayzus out of it (which is how I prefer it, actually). Mexican tripas (in tacos or in menudo), French tripes Proven├žale (and the near-identical Italian trippa Fiorentina), and the glorious stewed tripe with chile oil at our favorite dim sum place are all gooey and luscious - if you like that sort of thing, of course. The only semi-mainstream product I know of that has this as an ingredient is Campbell's Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup*, and while the cans I ate avidly as a child had loads of tripe chunks, today's version (when you can find it!) has just a few little bits of it.

    * If you can find it, Bookbinder's makes THE ORIGINAL pepper pot, from the Philadelphia hotel that made it famous.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Will Owen

      About your knowledge of tripe,
      I will not gripe.
      Well done;
      I learned something
      Today.
      Bookbinders,
      Memories of my youth.

      1. re: Passadumkeg

        I misspoke, actually - it was Bookbinder's RESTAURANT. You might look for "The Old Original Bookbinder's Restaurant Cookbook" by Charlotte Adams (Thomas Crowell 1961). I have a paperback edition. Pepper Pot recipe is on p.26. Plenty more good stuff, too - a flip of the bird to those who think cheese steak is the extent of Philly's culinary contributions.

        1. re: Will Owen

          We went to the venerable restaurant in Philly to learn some "cultcha".

    2. Tripas and tripe are two different things; tripe is stomach lining; tripas is intestines.

      FWIW, there are actually four distinct varieties of tripe, each of which is the lining of one from the cow's stomachs: flat / blanket / smooth tripe from the first stomach, honeycomb / pocket tripe from the second stomach, book / bible / leaf tripe from the third stomach, and reed tripe from the fourth stomach. Pho uses book tripe; menudo generally uses honeycomb tripe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: alanbarnes

        I am sure you are right in general, but I have had tripas tacos that were tripe, definitely not intestines.

      2. Buche is not cheek meat. Beef cheek meat is sold under 'cabeza' or 'cachetes.' Buche - which I ate tonight for dinner - is the lower esophagus of the pig and has almost a clam like texture.

        Tripas/ tripitas are the intestine rather than the actual tripe meat. Thats why it is tubular. Good tripitas should have crunchy and tender parts much like carnitas in my opinion.

        Pho tripe is almost exclusively 'librillo' or book tripe which comes from one of the stomachs of the cow - each stomach has a different texture. There are 3 or 4 other stomachs that are called 'cuajo,' 'toalla.' and 'panal' [honeycomb].

        Menudo should not use only honeycomb tripe - the word 'menudo' means mix or assortment and a good and proper should use all cuts of the stomachs thats the essence of the dish - the textural symphony. It is my favorite dish.

        9 Replies
        1. re: kare_raisu

          From the Roadfood forum:

          "Here in Los Angeles, buche is pork stomache.

          "But in some areas they use buche to refer to the beef cheeks, not served with the rest of the cabeza meat..."

          I knew I hadn't made that up; the one time I saw "Buche" on a bilingual sign, the English translation was "beef cheeks".

          Thanks to both of you for the tripe treatise. One of my favorite subjects - OK, several of my favorite subjects! - and the more I learn the happier I'll be. So, which of these d'you suppose is the elusive "gras double"? Question #2: should we organize a tripe cookoff?

          1. re: Will Owen

            Very interesting. I thought *I* knew the answers. Glad I didn't reply :) Husband and I LOVE tripe. mmm. Glad it's close to dinner time here.

            1. re: Will Owen

              A tripe cookoff? At your house, maybe!

            2. re: kare_raisu

              what he said about cabeza. my personal favorite filling for tacos.

              1. re: kare_raisu

                Well-described, at least based on our terminology in AZ.

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  Menudo is my favorite too. My kids were surprised when they heard the band.

                  1. re: kare_raisu

                    To clarify, when "tripas" is intestines it's pig intestine, not beef (which is why it can be reminiscent of carnitas). In Oakland taco trucks, it's usually translated as "chitlin's" (a lovely bit of cross-cultural linguistics).

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      So does that mean they are not tubular?

                      1. re: Steve

                        All intestines are tubular! Although most tripas I've had has been chopped up.

                  2. Is Chile or chilli?

                    1. "Tripe" is "callo" in Colombia.

                      1. Usually beef products come from steers rather than cows, cow meat is very very cheap and poor quality as it comes from retired dairy cows. Not that it's not out there! Just to add to the confusion.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: coll

                          I think "cow" is being used here in the generic sense, like "pig" instead of "sow" or "boar". I would guess, however, that the quality of offal would not vary as much from steer to cow as the quality of muscle meat does. I could be wrong about that, and if I am I'm sure I'll find out shortly, knowing this crowd.

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            It is all very different due to the age of the animal. They milk those cows until they dry up, and then they get to join their younger male companions in the food chain. In this particular case, younger is better.

                            1. re: coll

                              I suspect that, in the USA, old cows pass into a different distribution chain than the young neutered animals. They probably aren't graded as prime or choice.

                          2. re: coll

                            Actually, beef cattle of both genders are used for beef; the males are neutered and become steers; the females are heifers. You can get high-quality meat from either.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              I'm sure you know better than me! I just remember certain types of restaurants specifically asking for cow, it went for around $1 (several years ago) so it was a buffet staple. Heifers I guess are younger, same age as steers (a year or two?) It's getting harder to find meat experts to ask lately, they seem to have all retired.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                Big Al, as I'm sure you know, that's where Rocky Mountain oysters come from. You wrassle them little doggies down, hog tie their legs, grab the bottom of the scrotum, slice it off w/ a sharp pocket knife, distend the testes, slice 'em off, goop the wound w/ a black gooey disinfectant. Then turn to the head, grab the de-horning plug cutter, feel for the horn buds, bear down hard twist and cut out hard and cut out the plugs from the skull and more disinfectant goop. Brand the critter (Ah, smell of burning fur in the morning.), shoot 'em up w/ growth hormones in the hollow behind the ear, untie and "Git along little doggie", back to yo' mamma. This is how you turn a bull into a steer and how the sterile looking, clear plastic wrapped beef you buy in the supermarket is made. And people wonder why I hunt?

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  um, wouldn't you de-horn before neutering? the last thing i would want to be standing in front of is a large, angry horned animal who knows i neutered him just moments earlier!

                                  1. re: ceviche

                                    No, these are pobre hijcito 50 lb baby calves. The order is immaterial, they are tied and on the ground bleating their hearts out. Mama is on the other side of the gate mad as hell.

                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                      We used to have a neighbor who ran a some cattle every year, mainly to keep EFU (exclusive farm use) zoning. They would always warn us the day before they started weaning their calves cause they were going to wail all day. The castrating at least was a quick process. And I loved getting the results from it :) Yum, yum.