I got Menudo for the first time a while back at a solid Mexican place here in northern Indiana--it was a little restaurant set-up within a Supermercado. Delicious. Definitely a powerful beefy broth with tripe and whatever else going on in there, with herbs and tortillas and condiments on the side.
Next, I try a different place a town or two away. Had good rap on Yelp for the town. SImilar supermercado and restaurant set-up, and the place was very busy, but admittedly not predominately with Hispanics. Anyway, the menudo tasted fishy--the broth, that is, tasted pretty much all the way to being like a fish stock. Is that normally one of the menudo styles? The protein seemed to be only tripe.
I have never had any fishy menudo.
The distinctions for me are: clean, rich and deep taste from good broth and well cleaned tripas, vs menudo that I don't like which are wet dog under taste from poorly cleaned tripas, and/or flat taste from watery broth with too much stock powder in it with just a slick of oily chile sauce floating on top, like they tried to make a cheater's broth.
I wonder if the menudo broth was cooked next to some fish preparation, because they smell of fish can transfer to other foods very easily and make those foods taste fishy.
Updating my own query here: so far I googled a bit and found a passing remark on some page that tripe when not fully washed can taste fishy; also, I asked a Hispanic friend from Southern California, and he said no way should menudo taste fishy and don't go back to any place that served it.
Oddly, the rest of the food that we had there tasted genuinely great.
To luckyfatima: I have a hard time imagining that mere proximity to fish cooking could do this to a broth. But I do recall that fish tacos was one of the day's specials, as was the menudo itself.
Could it be that it had an ammonia smell?
In the USA tripe is cleaned and blanched, so it shouldn't have smell from the stomach contents (in contrast to tripitas, small intestine). But I like to parboil the tripe to remove any residual smell from cleaning.
I also found a reference to tripe developing an ammonia smell if it isn't fresh enough. It may be subject to the same sort of decomposition that affects fish.
The other meat in a menudo is foot, preferably cows, to pig can be used. I too blanch that, though more to remove bone dust from sawing than to remove any smells.
Menudo often is lightly seasoned, with condiments added at the table. So there isn't much to mask off flavors.
Not ammonia. I once had some not-so-fresh skate that really had a flat-out, no-holds-barred ammonia smell, so strong that I'm scared to try skate again. I guess I'm very sensitive to that smell.
This tripe just tasted like a so-so fish stock--not great but not funky either. It says something, though, that I found it unappealing enough to just abandon the dish after a few tastes.