Software: Tripes 101

So, you want to make tripes à la mode de Caen, eh? Then you are going to need to get yourself some tripes, my boy! Here is what you will need to know.

A cow is a ruminant, meaning that its stomach is divided into four chambers. Nature has designed ruminants this way to allow the animal to digest tough vegetation. As a cow forages, it stores and partially digests what it is eating in the first compartment of the stomach. Later the animal will regurgitate the food (its cud) into its mouth and chew it again to further break it down. The food-mass is then swallowed again; it passes through the other stomach compartments, and makes its way through the rest of the digestive system. Goats, giraffes, and llamas are also ruminants.

The four compartments are called the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum. The tripe we eat is the lining from each of these, and each of the four linings has a different texture.

cowstomach

The first compartment, the rumen (also known as the paunch or plain tripe), is the biggest of the four, comprising 80% of the capacity of the whole stomach. A rumen weighs approximately 7 lbs. It is the least expensive of the tripes. The rumen has a furry texture which can lose its integrity if it is overcooked.

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The second stomach is the reticulum. In the kitchen it is called honeycomb tripe. It is denser and meatier than the rumen and will stand up to long cooking times. A full honeycomb weighs approximately 2 to 3 pounds. It is the priciest of the tripes and is considered a higher grade than rumen. When shopping for tripes à la mode I usually ask the butcher for the biggest one he has because I like a high proportion of honeycomb. Honeycomb tripe is truly a thing of beauty.

tripe_1202067i

The omasum (also called bible tripe, bounded tripe, or manyplies) is the third compartment of a cow’s stomach. Unlike the smooth rumen or the honeycombed reticulum, the omasum consists of thin sheets of tissue attached to a denser “binding” piece of tissue. Some care should be taken not to overcook it, as the thin tissue is more delicate and can disintegrate under high heat or long cooking times.

omasum-white-in

Finally is the abomasum or reed tripe. It is similar to the omasum in texture, although the plies are not as pronounced.

abomasum
The proportions of the different tripes used in a tripes à la mode are purely subjective. For me, when buying tripe, the biggest variable (in terms of amount) is in the rumen. This is because I buy the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum whole. The rumen, weighing 7 lbs whole, is sold by piece. I’ll usually get 1.5 lbs- 2 lbs of rumen (equal amount to the other parts).

Availability of tripe differs from region to region. Here in Queens, New York, I find frozen rumen at most supermarkets. While it is good (I have made several decent tripes à la mode with it), it is not ideal. It lacks the meatiness of fresh, unfrozen tripe, and the dish benefits from the variety of two or even three different tripes.

For the truly quality stuff I go to the Chinese supermarkets.

IMG_0053 IMG_0052

There is no need to pre-order it there because it is always in stock and it is always fresh. I have also seen very nice-looking honeycomb tripe at supermarkets in Latino neighborhoods (think Menudo). When buying, look for evenly-colored tripes with no odor. And always ask the butcher to cut off any fat.

Good luck tracking down some good tripes!

Software: Tripes 101
By Guy Docetoni

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About Guy Docetoni

is a contributor for Heavy.com and Ahoramismo.com. Follow on twitter at @GuyDocetoni.

8 comments

  1. William Levatino

    Is there a difference between using cow, ox,or calf feet in the recipe. Are all available at Chinese markets and is one type preferable over the other

    • Thanks for the question. I don’t know about cow feet, but the decision between veal vs. ox feet has to do with two variables

      1) the desired thickness of the gravy, and

      2) the amount of cooking time required for the quantity of tripe you are preparing.

      You’ll notice that most of the recipes in the recipe section of this site indicate veal feet. That’s because these recipes are adjusted for more reasonable quantities of tripe that do not require as much cooking-time as would be required for a larger portion.

      Escoffier’s recipe calls for the whole tripe and requires a very long cooking time, so he uses ox feet. He writes:

      “In the preparation of this culinary specialty of Normandy, a very common mistake is often made; namely, that of using calves feet instead of those of an ox, an innovation to which there are many objections.

      “In the first place, the gravy of the tripe cannot absorb so much gelatin, and is improperly thickened in consequence; and secondly, since calves’ feet are much more tender than those of the ox, the former get boiled to shreds before cooking of the tripe has been properly finished.”

      There you go, from the master’s mouth.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      -Guy Docetoni

  2. William Levatino

    Thank you for your quick reply. The reason for my question was the fact that I have not seen veal or ox feet in the markets only cow and was told calf feet were difficult to get. Am I correct in assuming you use veal feet obtained at the Chinese markets?

    • You can use veal, ox, or cow. your can even use pig feet. If you plan to make a large portion that will cook for a long time and you only have access to pig or veal feet (which need less time to cook), then you can add the feet later in the cooking process.

      You picked up on one of the trickiest aspects of this dish: cooking it for the right time and temperature so the tripe and feet are both cooked just right. Let me know how you make out!

      -GD

  3. fenster

    A few tripe questions.
    First, I note you are in Queens. Where in the NYC area do you find abomasum? Honeycomb is common everywhere and bible, or book as I have heard it, is common in Chinese markets. But I have not seen abomasum. Any hints?

    Second, I have noted the introduction of a different kind of tripe at several Chinese markets recently called mountain chain. It appears to be a kind of ridge somewhere in the stomach. Any experience with that?

    Jeff

    • Hey, Jeff. Thanks for stopping by.

      I have never seen abomasum at the Chinese supermarkets. But you can get it from large Korean supermarkets or Korean butchers. I don’t know if the H-Mart on 32nd Street would have it, it’s small. But I have occasionally seen it in the H-Marts in Queens. (They may always have it in the back if you ask for it).

      If you are in Queens, there are Korean butchers in Flushing and Little Neck. They will have your abomasum.

      Mountain chain is from the rumen (the first stomach), it is also called “pillar tripe”. You will notice it on large pieces of rumen, it divides the different sacs within the rumen. It cooks very well and tender. I have used it to prepare tripes en brochette à la Ferté-Macé and it added a great texture to the mix‏‏. Give it a try!

      Hope this helps….let me know if you have any other questions, and keep us updated!

      -Guy Docetoni

  4. Wow that’s so gross but awesome all the same!! Love the super cow image.
    I wld never make this but open to trying sometime!

  5. Pingback: Trippadotto | PORKY'S CULINARY ADVENTURES

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