Many Mexicans and Mexican Americans grew up eating menudo. It’s a traditional Mexican soup made with beef stomach (tripe), cooked in a broth flavored with dried red chile, onion, garlic, and oregano. There are a zillion variations of this recipe, with red or white broth, with or without the honeycomb meat pieces, yellow or white pozole (hominy), and sometimes no pozole at all. Toppings usually include lime, diced onion and jalapeño, and chopped cilantro. Oregano is always a plus.
I didn’t grow up with menudo, although pozole was a childhood staple. Pozole consists mainly of hominy, with either shredded pork or chicken as the added meat, and the toppings are similar: onion, cilantro, and shredded cabbage and thinly sliced radish. The first time I ate menudo was in 2012, when my mom took me out to a local family-owned place in South El Monte, California. I didn’t like it. It smelled weird, and the meat was rubbery. It was cow stomach, for crying out loud!
The second time I tried menudo was Thanksgiving of 2014, at The Pozole’s mother’s home. (If you’ve never read The Pozole’s writings or seen his film work, it’s about time. Go there after you’re done reading my stuff.) I have to admit, I really liked it. The secret to liking menudo was eating the homemade stuff. That completely raised the bar for me. Now I’m an addict, but I have very high standards:
- Balanced ratio of hominy to tripe (a 40/60 to 50/50 ratio works well)
- Quality meat, including a combination of smooth and honeycomb cuts
- Cooked well enough, but not too much that it’s soggy
- Fresh and plentiful toppings: cilantro (without stems), onion, jalapeño, and lime (must be juicy)
- Robustly flavored but not overly salty broth
- Not too watery, but not too thick and greasy broth
So there you have it. Check out my Austin, Texas menudo tours for my ratings. I’ll save you the misery of not finding any hominy in your menudo.