Tripe: How to blanch and cook
Tripe is usually bleached in Western countries. I recently bought about a kilo of honeycomb tripe, which looked very good. I cooked it the usual way. However, on tasting it, I could detect the distinct flavour of Janola. I recall reading that tripe these days is put through a wash to make it white. I am thoroughly disgusted as it is not a cheap food to buy. Your opinion please.
Tripe comes from the stomach of cows, pigs, sheep and other mammals. When you consider what passes through it, it might be a good idea that it's bleached, though what you've experienced is a bleach too far. I would have taken it back.
Bleaching tripe isn't at all a new concept, and it was only in Southeast Asia in the mid-80s that I saw unbleached tripe for the first time. When I saw the brown stuff in Indonesia I was worried it was off and it took a bit of figuring out that this was actually its natural state.
It was also the first time I saw the different varieties of tripe, from the more flat "blanket" tripe through to the very leafy one. The flavours used in Asian cooking lend themselves to masking the strongish flavour of tripe, and I still prefer those more aromatic flavours.
My Gran would boil tripe in milk and white onion and I never really found it a dish worth eating. In a couple of restaurants on Lygon St in Melbourne back in the old days, tripe was simmered with tomato, garlic and sage. It was nice and I loved the texture, but it didn't rock my boat.
In Chinatown, however, they steamed it with soy, shaoxing vinegar and black beans - which was far more to my liking. In northern Thailand I had it braised with ginger, star anise, soy and garlic and it was lifted into another realm. It was deliciously less fatty and cleaner on the palate and it also created a rich broth to spoon over jasmine rice.
One trick you can use to overcome any taste of "processing" that's gone on before you buy it, is to blanch it in a pot of salted water and vinegar.
How to cook tripe
- Cut 1kg of tripe into six pieces to make it easier to handle, rinse under cold water for a minute.
- Pour on three litres of cold water and 150ml white vinegar.
- Add one tablespoon of fine salt and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, then drain into a colander and leave to cool.
- Then proceed with your recipe. Or simmer it in a pan of aromatic herbs and spices till cooked, then drain and cool.
- Cut into strips, coat with seasoned flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs.
- Deep-fry till crispy and serve with lemon aioli or a spicy tomato and olive sauce.
- And lastly, if you find yourself in Turkey with an imminent hangover, ask someone to point you to a restaurant serving iskembe corbasi - tripe soup.
In this, the tripe is blanched in strips or squares as described above. It's then sauteed in a little olive oil and butter with diced onions and garlic. Water is added, and maybe some herbs and chopped carrots, before being simmered for 2½ hours. When it's ready, eggs beaten with lemon juice or vinegar and sometimes flour are whisked in and used to thicken the soup.
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