Meat: a well-balanced mix of smooth and honeycomb cuts, cooked to the perfect degree of tenderness.
Hominy: as I asked for extra hominy, the hominy to meat ratio was slightly more than 1:1, but I personally like it that way.
Broth: perfect level of saltiness and a bit of a spicy kick, not too watery, but not too thick. Slightly on the greasy side, which I prefer. (Probably from the fat that melted off the several small pieces of pork “pata” bone that were left in the broth for flavor.)
Toppings: automatically comes with lime, onion, and jalapeño, but they were happy to add cilantro; the portions were just right,
Tortillas: homemade flour or corn, soft and fresh; if bread is more your thing, they do that, too.
Availability/Price: any day of the week—$7.95 for the medium and $9.95 for the large. The small for $6.95 is also available on Saturdays and Sundays.
Meat: mix of smooth cut with lots of the honeycomb cut, although some pieces seemed overcooked and soggy
Hominy: great ratio to meat (1:1)
Toppings: cilantro, limes, onion, and jalapeño were all available, however the cilantro portion was rather skimpy; upon request for more cilantro, it was mostly stems
Tortillas: nothing memorable
Availability: any day of the week
I’d only been to Casa Maria once before, about ten years ago, and all I could remember about the place was that the interior had been recreated to look like a quaint Mexican village. Nothing appeared to have changed since then, with arches every which way and fake roofs jutting out of walls.
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.