[SEE UPDATE BELOW] I love tripe. I love all organ meats, actually, but I have a particularly warm spot in my heart for tripe. It’s partly the spongy, chewy texture, strange and forbidding yet somehow irresistible. Partly the way this mild meat serves as a flavor platform for whatever it’s cooked with, soaking it up and enhancing it. And there is certainly an element of sense memory from all the restorative menudos and Chinese stews savored after a night of carousing.
So when I enjoyed one of the best tripe preparations I’ve ever had this week in the Bay Area—snowy bible or leaf tripe from the third stomach, plunged into boiling stock on the serving cart and then garnished with shaved scallions and peppers—I bemoaned the fact that when I returned to my home in upstate New York there would not be a tripe dish to be had in a 50 mile radius. The reason is not that tripe is hard to come by or prepare. It’s just “not for the American taste,” a server explained to me at a Vietnamese place. And I resolved to do something about it.
Google “airy book tripe (sach) is already cooked when you buy it” and you will find a page of references but they all trace back to this canonical recipe at Viet World Kitchen. So could it be that I could simply pick up a pound of tripe at the Asian Supermarket on Central, then shave it into my pho at Van’s or Kim’s or, god forbid, Pho Yum when the restaurant fails to provide it?
Not quite. The snowiness comes in part from bleach or other chemicals—rarely available “green” tripe is an unappetizing shade between grey and pink and must be cooked for hours during which time your kitchen will smell like the boys latrine at summer camp. I do not trust my friends at Asian Supermarket to completely purge these chemicals before selling, so I’m going to bring my sach home, wash it in several changes of water, then boil it (which will also give me an opportunity to correct any residual rubberiness through more cooking). Then I’ll load it into a zip-loc bag and we’re off for some pho. Tripe, let’s do this.
UPDATE: I went to the Asian Market and bought a pound and a half of honeycomb tripe (for my Chinese Tripe Stew) and a pound of leaf tripe. Boiled them for a few minutes and tasted before and after and I did not discern any bleachy/chemical taste, so next time I’d pop them right in the prep. The honeycomb tripe definitely has a stronger flavor so I’d prefer it for most recipes though I love the delicate texture of the leaf tripe. I also peeked at the nutritional content and was surprised to find tripe is low calorie, about 100 per 1/4 pound serving. Unfortunately it’s punishingly high in cholesterol, around 150 mg for that same serving. But we’re not going to eat this every day… or are we?