Small Intestine: Tacos de Tripas 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: Small Intestine Tacos served up by La Salsita.

The Ick Factor: Tripas are translated as beef gut right on the menu. This doesn't exactly leave much to the imagination, but it can keep you from falling victim to an unfortunate language barrier and accidentally ordering this, the buche or the cabeza (tasty pig gut and beef head). Tripas are small intestines, and differ from the tripe that you often find in menudo. That comes from one of the three stomachs of the cow. We're eating guts, not stomach.

Don't get freaked out, though, because the good news is that if you've consumed sausage in your lifetime, there's a good chance you've probably already eaten intestine. They make a lovely au natural casing for ground meat, but put aside that pesky little mental hurdle and let's dig in to some meaty tripas tacos.

(all the juicy details after the jump)

The Offal Choice: Tacos de tripas served up by La Salsita on tender corn tortillas and accented by cilantro, cebollitas (grilled onion), and a heavy hand with the hot sauce bottle.

Tastes Just Like: Tripas taste like a mild and musky version of beef. The musky quality is similar to that of liver but much, much milder and without the distinct metallic tang. All textural issues aside, when eating these tacos it's very clear that you're consuming a beef product. It tastes like cow meat. I can only assume that the buche (pig intestine) tacos probably taste like a milder version pork.

If it were the taste alone that sealed the deal, everyone would be eating tripas tacos with abandon. Unfortunately, there's a textural aspect of the meat that might turn off quite a few diners. Tripas cooked taco-style has the same toothsome quality as slightly underdone calamari. The intestine was nowhere near rubbery, and some of the smaller pieces managed to even be tender, but it still stands that tripas will host a chewy fiesta in your mouth.

There is also the unfortunate fact that it still looks like intestines, and again, weirdly resembles calamari. The tripas are roughly chopped in order to facilitate eating, but all those little pieces in your taco are clearly individual tubes of smooth muscle. They resemble cylindrical, beef-flavored calamari rings.

You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: You can spring one across the room like a rubber band. La Salsita makes sure that even though this cut can drift into chewy territory, it doesn't leave your jaw working overtime. Tripas should be flavorful and only slightly toothsome.

Always been a DIY-er? Hit up the Food City or an ethnic market and pick up some cleaned and prepared intestines. Make sure you don't accidentally get the tripe, which will be thick, flat and not at all tube-like. After you've acquired your intestines, grill up some tacos de tripas at home.

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Erica O'Neil