A flavorful Mexican tradition perfect for the weekend.
On weekends at Taqueria Jalisco in South Lake Tahoe, it’s not uncommon to find patrons spooning in mouthfuls of vibrant red soup as soon as the restaurant opens. For many Mexican-Americans, eating menudo on Saturday or Sunday at home or a favorite restaurant is a tradition they’ve taken part in for as long as they can remember.
The Mexican soup is made with tripe (cow’s stomach) in broth with a red pepper base and served with chopped onion, dried oregano, lime, and dried red peppers for toppings, and tortillas on the side. In some regional varieties, hominy or other cuts of meat such as beef or pig’s feet are added. When the red pepper base is left out, it’s called menudo blanco.
“It’s the custom to eat it early in the morning, and it’s known as a cure for a hangover, but people don’t necessarily eat it for that,” says Claudia Zepeda, who runs the taqueria with her parents, Manuel and Delia. The family-run restaurant has been open for 28 years on Lake Tahoe’s south shore.
The process of preparing the tripe coupled with a five- to seven-hour cooking time makes this a dish that can’t be whipped up in a hurry. The first step is properly cleaning the tripe, which comes in three varieties — aptly called blanket, honeycomb, and book for their distinctive appearances — from the different chambers of the cow’s stomach. Next, any excess fat is removed. The tripe is thoroughly rinsed, placed in a pot, and covered with water. It is brought to a boil and cooked for about 10 minutes, then rinsed again.
“There’s a lot of cleaning before you cook it,” Zepeda says. “Most people are more scared of the idea of what tripe is, but once they try it, it’s super tasty.”
At Taqueria Jalisco, the chopped tripe is cooked for five to six hours with chicken bouillon, oregano, bay leaves, onion, water, and mint. A cooked and blended mixture of tomatoes, onion, and red pepper with seasonings is added to the soup for more color and flavor.
“For our region in Jalisco [in Mexico], the way we eat it and the way we make it, it’s either in a red broth or clear broth, and we don’t add any hominy to it, but there are a lot of people who do add hominy,” Zepeda explains.
For some families, menudo is served to mark special occasions and births. And while there may not be a scientific explanation for its purported hangover-curing ability, many menudo fans swear by it.
“It’s time consuming to make and it has a very strong flavor,” Zepeda says, “but sometimes we sell out on Saturday and people will have to wait until the next weekend when we make it again!”
Claire “I Will Eat Anything” McArthur had her reservations about tripe, but she found the flavorful menudo at Taqueria Jalisco absolutely delicious. You can confirm this at Clairecudahy@gmail.com.
(courtesy of Taqueria Jalisco in South Lake Tahoe. Serves 8)
2 pounds beef tripe (cleaned, trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon chicken bouillon
½ tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
½ medium onion, diced
4 to 5 mint leaves
5 cups water
For red pepper base
2 tomatoes, chopped
¼ onion, diced
5 California (also called Anaheim) red peppers, chopped
¾ teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
Add tripe, seasonings, onion, mint, and water to a large pot, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 to 6 hours until meat is tender. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook tomatoes, onion, peppers, bouillon, and salt for about 30 minutes. When done, blend and mix into menudo stock. Serve with sliced lime, diced onions, dried oregano, dried red peppers, and warm tortillas.