kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake
A small white dish of sliced leaf tripe (book tripe) tossed with shreds of carrot and root ginger, with two slices of fresh red chilli perched on top.  The dish sits inside a bamboo steamer basket.

What better dish than tripe to start off my month of dim sum? Tripe may have a reputation for being smelly and rubbery, but when properly prepared it is neither of these things. The tripe pictured above (from Gerrard's Corner in London Chinatown) was perfectly textured, with a bit of a bite to it yet yielding easily to chewing, and with no hint of any unpleasant smell or taste.

The generic name for tripe is 肚 (dǔ) [see footnote]. However, the type of tripe used in this dish also has a couple of more poetic names, as mentioned in my post on 白/bái — 牛柏葉 and 牛百葉. Both of these are pronounced in Mandarin as niú bǎi yè; the first literally translates as "cow's cypress leaves" and the second as "cow's hundred leaves". Like the English names "leaf tripe", "book tripe", and "bible tripe", they refer to the appearance of the tripe slices, each with a long, firm "spine" from which softer, thinner "leaves" spread out. This kind of tripe comes from the omasum, the third chamber of the cow's stomach.

When served as dim sum, 牛柏葉 is generally flavoured with ginger and spring onions, often with a few sliced red chillies thrown in too. You might see this listed on the menu as 姜蔥牛柏葉 (jiāng cōng niú bǎi yè) or as 蔥椒牛柏葉 (cōng jiāo niú bǎi yè) — 姜 is ginger, 蔥 is spring onions, and 椒 is peppers/chillies. Some menus use the alternate character for ginger, 薑 (also pronounced jiāng). Other preparations include tripe in black bean sauce (豉汁牛柏葉/chǐ zhī niú bǎi yè) and plain poached tripe (白灼牛柏葉/bái zhuó niú bái yè).

To make this at home, make sure you get the right kind of tripe. As mentioned above, you want beef tripe (not pig tripe), and you want the third-chamber tripe, not the honeycomb stuff. I found it frozen at See Woo in Chinatown, amusingly labelled in English as "beef manifold".

When served in restaurants, the dish is usually cooked in advance, reheated by steaming, and presented as pictured above in a small dish nestled inside a steamer basket. The initial cooking takes rather longer than the reheating. Some tripe is pre-cooked, but if yours isn't, you may need to boil it for a couple of hours in order to get it soft enough.

English-language recipes for this dish seem to be few and far between. Foodblogger Nooschi has a recipe which involves stirfrying as a final step. (The FoodiePrints blog has an amusing pictorial of making Nooschi's recipe, first the wrong way, and then the right way.) Nooschi also suggests doing the initial boiling in chicken stock if you want a little more flavour, a suggestion seconded by the Gourmet magazine version (though Gourmet use the wrong tripe, and their suggestions of using low-sodium chicken broth and sherry look to me like house style sub-editing decisions rather than decisions made for the sake of flavour).

As an aside, you may also see stewed tripe on the menu (often as stewed tripe with daikon). I think this is usually honeycomb tripe, which comes from the reticulum (second chamber of the stomach).

Footnote: [0] I read on the ChinesePod forums (in a post that appears to have since been deleted) that 肚 is pronounced with a different tone depending on whether it's stomach-the-organ (dù) or tripe-the-edible-thing (dǔ), but I don't know how general a practice that is.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Sorry, pet anatomical peeve

Date: 2010-08-04 07:20 am (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
Ruminants are properly described as having one stomach with four chambers - rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, not four stomachs.

Date: 2010-08-04 10:09 am (UTC)
nanila: me (me: ooh!)
From: [personal profile] nanila
Just to clarify, does that mean that what [personal profile] kake referred to as "third stomach tripe" is "omasum"?

What is the "honeycomb" tripe? Is that a specific chamber as well?

Date: 2010-08-19 08:55 am (UTC)
shuripentu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shuripentu
Ooh, I knew there were different cuts of tripe, but I didn't realise they came from different chambers entirely.

And I am adamant that the honeycomb stuff is the best! At least, the parts where the fronds are nice and sturdy, not the parts where they're all limp and woobly. My grandmother said (I think) that depends on where in the chamber the piece is taken from - the good stuff is in the middle and the woobly stuff is at the edge, or something like that.

I used to have stewed tripe and daikon every weekend when we went for dim sum; it's one of my favourite dishes. Except that I don't like daikon, or the woobly bits, so I just picked out the nice bits of tripe and left everything else to the rest of the table. XD

Thanks for posting this; I really must give that recipe a try! (I am getting hungry just looking at the pictures. They did have to choose the nicest cuts of reticulum for the photoshoot...)

Date: 2010-08-04 10:21 am (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
As [personal profile] kake says, honeycomb tripe is the reticulum. If you look at this image of the lining of the reticulum, you'll see why.

The source for that picture is this page on mammalian digestive systems, which has pictures of all the chambers of the ruminant stomach. Probably not for the squeamish, though...


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