Just before the COVID-19 crisis sent the world into quarantine, my fiancé and I had flown out to San Diego for a friend’s wedding. It was my first time in the city, and I fell in love with colorful Old Town. While everything back home in late February was grey and dull, Old Town was bright with vibrant blossoms and foliage, relaxed palm trees and funky cactus shapes leaning into the sun. The streets were filled with brightly painted buildings–rich blues and greens and pinks mingled among the warm glow of the sandstone. Dotted along the street, seemingly on every block, were Mexican restaurants where women stood out front pounding out dough for the morning’s batch of fresh tortillas. It was at one of these restaurants that we shared a bowl of menudo for breakfast–menudo, that comforting Mexican soup with melt-in-your-mouth tripe and hominy in a lightly spicy broth.
Now that we’re stuck at home in quarantine, I think back on that soup, the taste of another time and another place. It seems like an appropriate dish to crave, under the circumstances, since it’s a traditional comfort food, and we could all use a bit of comfort right now. So, I want to share with you the recipe that I developed to try to recapture the flavors of that San Diego morning. You may not have tripe in the freezer or canned hominy on the shelf, like we do, but on your next foray to the grocery store, pick up the ingredients you need and give it a try–it’s totally worth it. And even if you’re not a devoted tripe-lover, this dish will make a convert of you.
My recipe includes pork tongue, which is not traditional, but which adds another protein that’s amazingly tender. If you want to be more traditional, you can simply use pork tenderloin, browned at the start of the cook, set aside, and then added in with the hominy.
2 lbs honeycomb tripe,* cut into 1” pieces
2 pork tongues
6 cups pork stock (or chicken stock), preferably homemade
3 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp coriander seed
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper
¼ tsp black pepper
1 (29 oz) can hominy
Pequin chiles, to taste (or more red pepper flakes)
Ripe avocado, sliced, to serve
Fresh cilantro, chopped, to serve
Sliced radishes, to serve (optional)
Lime wedges, to serve
*I am able to buy well-cleaned tripe, but if you want to clean it yourself or make double-sure it’s clean, soak it in lemon juice or in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water for fifteen minutes, then rinse well with fresh, cold water.
Add the tripe, pork tongues, stock, onions, garlic, salt, coriander, oregano, crushed red pepper, and black pepper to a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, for 3 hours, or until the tripe is translucent and the pork tongues are tender.
Remove the pork tongues and let cool so that they can be handled without burning your fingers. Peel away the skin with a sharp knife, then cut into bite-size cubes.
Return the tongue meat to the pot, along with the hominy. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
Serve hot, topped with the chiles, avocado, cilantro, radishes, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.