#1785 Eating Tripe: or Food Adventures Inspired by Childhood Trauma



                                                               The mysterious hierba buena.


This week I listened to a story on The Moth by actress Judith Benezra where she recounts her childhood trauma of having to survive an awkward childhood where her mother insisted on serving her sardine sandwiches for lunch.  I think it's pretty harsh for a mom to send sardine sandwiches into your average American lunch room and yet it was a good life lesson for Judith. What's your childhood sardine sandwich story?

When I was in the fifth grade I forgot my lunch and my mom delivered a hot lunch to school. It was Cau Cau- a peruvian tripe parsley dish. Not only was it chewy tripe with a particular smell that lit up the cafeteria but it was also a bright green for anyone with a stuffy nose to notice. I was so embarrassed I threw it out just as soon as my mom left.  I also threw it out with enough drama to show anyone who thought that I ate the stuff- that I didn't.  The problem was that I actually loved Cau Cau then and fortunately I still do.

When I remembered this story I realized that I've never made Cau Cau for my children.  I've ordered it at Peruvian restaurants (and ate it enthusiastically) but I've never made my children try it.  So I thought it was high time to traumatize my kiddies... just a little.

Operation Cau Cau went into effect.  I poured over my cook books and the internet and found a couple of different recipes.  Finally I put in calls to my Peruvian support network-  uhh Karinna you better be reading this.  I followed this recipe but I really tweaked it lots to fit my research and food memories.

The main ingredients are:
Tripe, potatoes, Turmeric, "hierba buena," parsley, onions, garlic.

Tripe- it is of course just the cow's stomach.  My smarty M'ijo wisely asked, "Which stomach, Mami, a cow has four?"  Yeah I didn't think of that until I found myself at the Asian market looking at different tripes.  No luck asking a non-English speaking Chinese guy about what tripe to use for Cau Cau and could you believe my phone was out of range?  Without my iphone and in an Asian Market!  Well I just felt naked.  I bought the Omasum, which is the third stomach.  I think we Peruvians are not as skilled in the kitchen as the Chinese and I think any stomach will do as no recipe I found directed me to any particular tripe.

I let my Cau Cau soak in a bowl of milk in the fridge overnight.  Apparently this takes out the stink factor.  I do remember the Cau Cau stinking up the house when I was a kid.
Then the next morning I rinsed out the tripe.  By the way it's actually quite pretty looking.  I like the ridges in it and could not help wondering if there's a good knitting pattern that would mimic those ridges.  The tripe was then thrown in water with a pinch of salt- ok maybe 2 or 3 pinches-  I kinda really like salt.  I also added some slices of lime as per the recipe.

I followed the recipe to let it cook for a few minutes and then dumped out the water and do it again and this time let it cook for 2 hours.  I don't know if this extra step of rinsing after cooking for a short time  was necessary since I'd had my tripe soaking in milk but I did it anyways.  I've heard that another thing to take up the stinky factor is to throw in a slice of bread in with the water when you are cooking it as it then soaks up the smell.  I didn't have much bread- well just enough for lunch tomorrow and I didn't want to give myself another errand.

When I cut up the tripe I didn't cut it into 3/4" squares as recommended in the recipe.  Whoever wrote this recipe has clearly not had to eat tripe in childhood or tried feeding it to children.  My mother always diced it up very small and so it was never too chewy.  So I diced it just as small as I could without cutting off my fingers and then I chopped it down a bit more.  I also made the potatoes finely diced as it cooks quicker and it then looks uniform with the tripe.

I cooked my onion and garlic as stated in the recipe.  I didn't add any chili at this time.  I think next time at this step I will add in a  red bell pepper for a little extra flavor and more color.  Once the onions were translucent I added the diced potato, tripe, and turmeric.  Separately I put the parsley with a cup of the tripe broth into the blender and made a little green soup.  Once the potatoes were cooked I added in the green soup and I added in a tablespoon of aji amarillo paste. 1 tablespoon was a bit too much for the kiddies  and so next time I'd half that.  I also added about a teaspoon of "hierba buena."  I'd also add next time some fresh or frozen peas to add some more vegetables.  I thought I had some and forgot I'd used it all for the Aguadito last week (adventure #1792).

Oh what is "hierba buena"?  I've researched it extensively and I 'm not sure.  It means good weed but it seems it is just a type of mint- maybe spearmint. I found a dried version in my Latin market but it said on the package  Lemon Verbena- which is not a type of mint.  I had my children's babysitter, a Peruvian woman, smell what I bought.  She said it was the right stuff.  It tasted of mint and it was a little lemony.  I've had Lemon Verbena before but can't identify it well.  I'll do some research and find out for sure.  Sounds like hierba buena can lead into a food adventure of it's own.

I served the cau cau over a big heap of rice.  I forgot the lime wedge but next time I'd squeeze a bit of lime at serving time.

Overall it was very tasty.  It did not match up to my mother's or my tia's.  So I definitely have to ask them what to do differently.  M'ijo liked it and ate it all.  M'ija created lots of drama over the spice.  I didn't have M'ijita try it as I thought the chewy tripe might be choke hazard.  She did enjoy the the potatoes over the rice (Wha????  I know... I'll post about that later- Peruvian food is all about potatoes and rice).  My husband had a couple servings- which he never does.  So all in all it was a success and no one was traumatized... (well M'ija was just a little but she seems traumatized by something every 30 minutes or so)

If you want to listen to the Moth story that inspired this you can look it up on itunes or listen to it on Stitcher app.  Stitcher is to podcasts like Pandora is to music.  I heart podcasts almost as much as I heart food.

If you want some aji amarillo you can find it online at
If you are in NYC.  I go shopping for Latin products at Junction Bazaar in Jackson Heights.  It's a fairly bazaar market but it always has a what I need in Latin American cuisine.  They have almost a whole aisle dedicated to Peruvian food.  Wow!  I could move to Jackson Heights just for that.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post!! I remember my Dad having a favorite kind of tripe, i think they call it "librillo" in Lima, anyway I know they use different kinds in Peru for different dishes like, Mondonguito a la Italiana (my favorite!, Cau-cau y Choncholi. I haven't cooked cau-cau for anybody yet. You've inspired me! I don't know how my kids would react though.