Pig Stomach: Tacos de Buche at La Salsita

Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the valley. This week: Pig stomach served up by La Salsita.

The Ick Factor: Buche may be the ultimate mystery meat. Depending on the region from which you hail, it can be used to describe anything from hog maw to pig guts. The general consensus is that it has something to do with the piggy's digestive tract, be that neck meat, esophagus, stomach, intestines, or an entire porky grab bag of offal bits. The menu at La Salsita isn't much help on this front either with the vague definition "pig gut" all there is to describe this enigmatic offering.

(all the juicy details after the jump)

The Offal Choice: Tacos de buche served up by La Salsita. Wrapped up in flash fried corn tortillas and topped with cilantro, onion, and plenty of hot sauce.

Tastes Just Like: Thin cut pork. Despite the mystery meat status of buche, it would make for an excellent introduction to the glories of offal cuisine. The flavor and texture are familiar to anyone that eats pork.

Buche tastes like a slightly milder version of pork, and La Salsita somehow managed to leech out the musky tang that characterizes other intestinal offerings (like tripas). Or it could very well be that the tacos were made primarily with hog stomach and esophagus. Delicious, delicious esophagus. It tasted like the buche might have been brined before cooking, because it was infused with salty flavor and plenty of moisture.

The texture of buche is also very different from most offal meats, which tend to be either overly toothsome and springy or soft and gelatinous. Just by looking at the buche you can see that it's definitely smooth muscle (organ meat) instead of skeletal muscle ("regular" meat), but it most closely resembles the "other white meat" in texture. No rubber bands or jiggly bits in this taco.

You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: Although exactly what part of the digestive tract buche is remains undetermined, it's still digestive meat. That means it was a crap factory at one point in time, so it's probably a good idea to clean that buche really, really well or risk a funky flavor.

Always been a DIY-er? Hit up your neighborhood carniceria or a big box ethnic market and order up some pig gut. It can also be labeled as hog maw, and could contain esophagus, stomach meat and small intestine. Once you've got your pork stomach, clean it well and prepare some succulent buche tacos.

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Erica O'Neil