If you’ve ever come across this unusual-looking meat called tripe in your local grocery store, you might have wondered what is tripe made from. The moment you find out it’s from an animal organ, you might have felt a squirming sensation in your stomach. Maybe you are in complete astonishment about how people can consume this kind of meat.
Organ meats, also called offals, are the parts that meat vendors discard after slaughter. Little did we know that they are actually very nutritious. They are iron and protein-packed, and even a highly prized meat product in the past. While it seems like a strange food practice in Western countries, Italians have been adding them in stews and sausages. They have been doing it for hundreds of years. An example is Trippa Alla Romana, a traditional dish in Italy that uses tripe as the main ingredient.
Did you know that andouille sausage, one that we commonly use in mac and cheese and hotdog buns, is made of tripe? Before you head to the fridge thinking of throwing away your pack of andouille sausages, let’s find out more about tripe, and maybe even change your mind about eating it. We got several ideas to serve this exotic meat. Who knows? Maybe it’s the next big thing to add to your diet meals.
What Is Tripe?
Tripe is the stomach lining of ruminant animals like cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and cattles. It’s an edible tough meat, usually available as an organ meat product.
Ruminants have a unique digestive system compared to other herbivores. They have a complex stomach with four compartments. Having this kind of digestive system enables them to have better use of energy from breaking down fibrous plant materials. As a result, these parts become a very rich source of protein and other vitamins like folate and vitamin B, which is said to help with anemia. Modern diets like Paleo Diet incorporate organ meats like tripe as they are rich in protein that helps with curbing appetite and repairing muscles. However, if you have cholesterol problems, consult with your doctor first as we know organ meats to be very high in cholesterol.
There are four kinds of tripe, which come from each of the four chambers of a ruminant’s stomach, typically of a cow. Although these linings are edible, you may find that some of these types aren’t all palatable. The different types are:
- Blanket Tripe, the first chamber of a cow’s stomach known as rumen, has a flat and smooth appearance and is deemed to be the least palatable type. It is rich in cholesterol and has an unpleasant smell and taste.
- Honeycomb Tripe, called as such because of its honeycomb-like pattern texture, is the cow’s second stomach lining. This type is the most desired and palatable one, used for a variety of dishes like saucy Mexican Menudo or a light beef tripe soup.
- Book Tripe, also called omasum or bible tripe, is the third chamber lining. It appears to have the qualities of both blanket and honeycomb chambers. It is also more tender than the blanket one and has a richer flavor than it, too.
- Reed Tripe is also called abomasum. We rarely see this type because of its glandular tissue content. Aside from this, it is also the fattiest and smoothest type with a mild to strong taste.
What Does It Taste Like?
Honeycomb, the most commonly sold and deemed palatable, has an extremely mild taste with a soft, spongy, and chewy texture. Because the tripe doesn’t have an apparently strong flavor, you would expect that the taste of your dish will greatly depend on the sauce you choose to incorporate with it. Add it to recipes like a Provencal beef stew or a hearty beef tripe pho. See how it will work wonders when you add these soft, spongy bites in saucy dishes and hearty broth recipes.
Where to Buy and Things to Look Out For
Selling and consuming this organ meat is common in Latin and Asian cultures. We can usually find them at local markets. In the United States, however, they rarely sell tripe in local supermarkets. But they are more commonly found at local slaughterhouses and local butchers.
What they usually refer to as “fresh tripe” is one that has been bleached and cleaned. Bleaching is an important step to deep clean this offal meat. When purchasing, you may notice its apparent paleness, sometimes a yellowish color, sometimes a clean-looking white one, all because of bleaching. Aside from fresh tripe, they are also available bleached, scalded, cleaned, sometimes even already cooked. Regardless of which, one should clean and wash before cooking.
Now you might have heard about green tripe—which is essentially tripe in it’s raw, uncleaned, and unbleached form. Contrary to its name, green tripe is a brown color with only little hints of green as a result of the ruminant animal feeding on plants, grass, and leaves before slaughter. You want to be cautious of this and look out for green tripe as it is not safe for human consumption and is only available as food for animals. You want to look for either fresh or bleached tripe.
How to Prepare and Cook Tripe
Because bleaching is part of the tripe preparation to make it safe for consumption, you would expect it to have an unpleasantly bleached smell, apart from its usual foul odor. Don’t worry, as there are ways to get rid of the foul smell.
Regardless of which type you choose, you want to double rinse it to make sure that it’s extra clean. Remove extra fat and membrane first. Use salt and vinegar to rub on the surface, carefully scraping before rinsing it under running water. Here’s a more detailed procedure on how to properly clean beef tripe and ways to get rid of its smell.
How to Cook Tripe
In European, Mexican, and Asian cuisines, this offal meat is quite a familiar ingredient in their dishes. There’s quite a long list of recipes to use it with. Here are some recipes that are worth trying even for first-timers:
- Traditional Vietnamese Beef Pho – Skip your usual beef pho takeouts and try to add tripe to its recipe by making it at home. Load it with tender beef cuts and additional soft, spongy bites of honeycomb.
- Tripe Stew – Add more bites of comfort to this comfort food by adding softness to it. Let its thick sauce provide flavor for the extremely mild-tasting meat.
- Kare Kare – Kare kare is a traditional beef tripe recipe from the Philippines. We should pair every bite with shrimp paste to add wonderful flavors to its mild-tasting sauce.
Why You Should Consider Eating Tripe
Contrary to what many thought as food waste, tripe lends itself as a highly flavorful ingredient to add to dishes. Apart from this, there are many other reasons you should have a taste of this organ meat. It’s worth mentioning that buying organ meat promotes avoiding food waste by consuming animals from nose to tail. This kind of philosophy lets us appreciate and consume normally overlooked parts of an animal, one that we normally call exotic foods. Another reason is that eating tripe lets you enjoy a rich and nutrient-packed dish. Now that you know about tripe is a highly flavorful ingredient, there’s no reason you shouldn’t consider trying it.