Mondongo is another dish that I had always known about from Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican joints, but never ate growing up. Tripe was not a normal dinner on the Upper West Side. I never tried the stuff until I was living in France, and my Armenian-Turkish-French friend took me to a great little Turkish place that served İşkembe, a tripe soup enriched with egg yolk and spiked with lemon juice and paprika. I feel in love with the stuff, and ended up going to the spot even without my friend for a fix. Back in New York, I feel in love with what was to me is Korean İşkembe: Kom Tang. This is a soup made from ox tails with a healthy dose of tender tripe as a meaty ingredient. Now that I was sold on tripe, which is basically cow’s stomach, I figured I would try out my lady’s aunt’s recipe for Panamanian-style tripe stew. The main two complaints about tripe are that is has a funny smell and is rubbery. The only solutions to both of these problems are to properly clean the tripe and to cook it on low heat for hours. This batch sat on the stove on the lowest heat setting for a total of eight hours. Another case of passion and patience as the two main virtues of the home cook. The tripe will have some fat on the side that does not have a honeycomb strucutre, and you should try to cut away as much of this as possible.
Once trim, you end with a piece of meat that is just about 100% pure protein. Rinse the tripe in several changes of cold water and slice up.
Then bring a good amount of water to a boil, put in some regular white vinegar and boil the tripe for about twenty seconds. This process helps to get rid of any lingering impurities.
Heat up some oil in a pot, and suate some sofrito of onion, bell pepper, culantro and garlic. I added a little chile powder to have a touch of heat and more complex flavor.
Once sweated, add some tomato paste. You should mix this into the pot a bit and let it cook a little. This helps take away the raw, almost tinny flavor of the paste (there is a fancy french term for this which I can’t remember and don’t think is worth looking up.)
After a couple of minutes, you can add back the tripe, cook for a minute and add water to just cover. Let this cook for a couple of hours, covered and on a very low flame.
Meanwhile, slice up some carrots, mushrooms and spanish chorizo. Also, slice the kernals off a few ears of fresh corn. You should also prepare the garbanzos by putting the dried beans into plenty of water, bringing to the boil, and cooking on a high simmer for an hour or an hour and a half, until tender but not falling apart.
Have some frozen (better fresh , if you can find them at the farmer’s market) peas ready and some chopped culantro, as well. These ingredients will be added over the course of the long, slow simmer in a way that will maximize flavor and avoid the total breakdown of the ingredients. Be sure to stir the pot every once in a while throughout the cooking process. After a couple of hours, pitch in the carrots.
After four more hours, pitch in everything else other than the peas in culantro. Add enough water so that everything is barely covered.
In the seventh hour, throw in the peas.
After eight hours, put in the culantro and season with s+p. There should be some liquid, but not much and it should be thick like a minestrone soup. The tripe should be very tender and have picked up the flavors of all the other ingridients, only keeping a slight tripe flavor that is not overpowering.
This is best eaten with some good bread to soak up the sauce.