The Ick Factor: Tripe is a fun little offal grab bag. You've probably heard that a cow's stomach is composed of four different chambers, and each one yields a different type of tripe. So as Old Bessy chews up her cud, it travels through the rumen, into the reticulum and the omasum, and heads out through the abomasum, headed for other funky destinations. That last chamber of the cow's stomach isn't consumed too often (duh), but the rest of those nasty bits are incorporated into all sorts of eats. Each type of tripe has a very different texture and consistency, so choose wisely. It can be thick and smooth (rumen), honeycombed (reticulum) like the stuff often used for menudo, or thin and stippled ribbons-o-tripe (omasum) like our delicious dim sum standby.
All the juicy details after the jump.
The Offal Choice: Omasum salad, tossed in a light chili sauce and delivered via dim sum cart at the Phoenix Palace.
Tastes Just Like: Al dente pasta. The tripe at Phoenix Palace had a texture that was much more tender and toothsome than some of its chewier counterparts. They have perfected omasum cooking up in this joint. The tripe had a surprising mouthfeel similar to al dente pasta, firm resistance but not so much that it was hard to chomp through. The stippled bits of texture on the omasum was a little bit foreign feeling against our tongue, but not unpleasant.
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What was the most surprising about the tripe was the flavor. It was practically nutty, with a mild musky aftertaste that's common to other offal meat. And the chili flakes added just the right amount of heat.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: Your jaw is working overtime, and it feels like you're chewing on rubber bands. Tripe can be pretty tough and has to be boiled for a good long time before it softens up enough to be palatable. Also, the funky stomach bits should be washed very well. We shouldn't have to explain why.
Always been a DIY-er? You're in luck! Tripe can be picked up at just about any market, even them fancy ones, but just like other offal, a market with ethnic flair is going to have the best variety. So if you're looking specifically or omasum (instead of that honeycomb variety), check out Lee Lee's Oriental Supermarket next door to Phoenix Palace and whip up some omasum salad!
Know of some offal we just have to try? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.