Friday, 15 January 2010
In order to be rendered even vaguely edible, tripe must be cooked for at least three hours. And that’s only after it’s been soaked, disinfected and bleached.
Of course, unbleached, or green tripe, is available (most notably in France) but frankly the thought of eating something that until recently was in such close proximity to a vast quantity of cow shit is not that appealing in itself. Bring on all the bleaching agents possible, I say.
Having lost my offal training wheels some time ago (probably when I munched on brain) I felt sufficiently ready for tripe which seems to be making something of a comeback.
I’d barely finished editing the accompanying photos when I read this great piece on Word of Mouth. So now seems good time to plough this particular furrow. Or tap into the ‘tripegeist’, if you will (sorry).
Admittedly I was scared. The slab of tripe had been in the freezer for six months and I was convinced that the GF wouldn’t be able to stomach (sorry. Again) this particular adventure. Her trip to Vegas presented the perfect opportunity.
Trippa ala Romana (tripe cooked with onions, garlic and tomatoes) was initially at the top of my list but reading about Szechwan restaurant Chilli Cool convinced me otherwise.
Bird’s Eye chillies are notoriously hot and Szechwan peppercorns contain a compound called hydroxy alpha senshool which causes a numbing sensation in the mouth. Surely this heat/anasthesia combo would render the tripe so insignificant as to be at least bearable?
After cooking down some red onion, Thai chillies and ginger in a hot pan I added the sliced tripe and then the braising liquid of soy sauce, chicken stock and dark rice wine vinegar along with a hefty number of dried bird’s eye chillies and enough Szechwan peppercorns to mimic the effects of a stroke.
Even through all this the niff of the tripe was palpable. Damp and slightly fetid, it called to mind an old house with a leaky roof, home to a family of dogs and wet sheep. It wasn’t nausea inducing but certainly lodged itself in the nostrils.
It cooked for three hours at which point the tripe was removed and the cooking liquor strained and reduced to a syrupy consistency. I stir-fried some finely sliced ginger, garlic and onion then added the tripe to the wok before spooning over the reduced sauce and adding noodles. Just to make absolutely sure I would neither taste nor feel the tripe in went some more chillies and peppercorns.
It was finished with spring onions, roasted peanuts and even more spices then a spoonful of sugar and a squeeze of lime.
The smell had certainly subsided when eating time came around. It actually smelled and looked thoroughly appetising, especially after fortifying myself with a couple of beers.
In went an enthusiastically large mouthful.
And there it remained whilst I chewed. And chewed. And chewed. Long after the flavour had disappeared, the rubbery nugget persisted, moving from side to side and getting no more tender than a piece of cheap gum. I tried. I really did. But there was no way I was going to force this bouncy ball of cow’s stomach into my own.
Not only was the texture seemingly galvanized, the flavour of the tripe remained even through the atomic spices. Thanks to the numbing properties of the peppercorns I could happily have endured root canal surgery but there was still an underlying and noticeable taste, not quite unpleasant but certainly not nice.
The rest of the tripe was picked out and left on the side of the plate whilst the tasty noodles sated my hunger.
It wasn’t all bad. The noodle dish would be delicious with beef shin, pork belly or even chicken thighs but I’ve found my limit. Even the hardiest of holistic, nose-to-tail eaters have to draw a line somewhere and mine comes right before you need to crack open the bleach.