April 6, 2016
Okay, I’ll admit it: I love tripe. The first time I tasted it I fell in love with the texture – which differs depending which kind of tripe you’re eating. (Tripe usually refers to beef tripe, and each of the cow’s first three stomach chambers has a different lining. The rumen is flat, the reticulum is honeycombed and the omasum is feathery. ) I also appreciate the flavor, which is like nothing else on earth: barny, slightly funky, but still mild and not remotely gamy.
This is, I’ll admit, a taste that is not shared by many Americans. And so, until recently, I found tripe primarily in Korean restaurants (where you can often find it grilled, or in the stew called gopchang jeongol ) or occasionally in French bistros daring enough to serve tripes à la mode de Caen to an American audience. Italian restaurants featuring Roman cuisine often serve it too; two of my favorite versions of trippa alla romana can be found at Lupa and Maialino; at both restaurants the tripe is cooked into buttery softness, sliced into strips, swathed in a rich tomato sauce and sprinkled with cheese.
But lately I’ve seen signs that tripe may be coming into its own.
In Los Angeles, at Moruno in the Farmers Market, tripe is given the royal treatment. It is cooked four different ways, until it resembles nothing remotely familiar. Having been wrestled into submission, it is grilled so that what you get is soft, mild flesh that nearly melts beneath a fantastic coat of char; served with giant white beans this tripe is guaranteed to convert the most recalcitrant offal-hater.
The other night, at High Street on Hudson, I had a completely different take on tripe. Again, it had been beaten into submission by different kinds of heat, then grilled to a crisp and served with roasted sunchokes and grilled cucumber. The flavor combinations were absolutely stunning, the soft sweetness of the sunchokes and the coolness of the cucumber dancing around the tripe so that each bite tasted slightly different.
I’m excited by this trend; if you know of a chef doing interesting things with tripe, please let me know. This is one food that deserves its moment in the sun.
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