The Nasty Bits: Deep Frying Tripe
Take a look at this platter of tripe. It comes from a pot of menudo I had sitting in my fridge, though the pieces of simmered tripe could have just as easily been fished out of a batch of Trippa alla Romana, that soothing dish of tripe cooked in tomato sauce and wine, topped with plenty of cheese and leaves of mint. Or, the tripe could have been stewed with a pig's foot and plenty of white wine, with cannellini beans in a claypot set over low temperature in the oven.
The point is, these are pieces of well-stewed tripe, which means that the tripe is tender with a rich taste and a chewy snap that tears easily with every bite.
Mix a bowl of tripe with some pasta, top with more tomato sauce and cheese, and that's a meal in itself. Simmered tripe is probably the way in which we most often enjoy tripe because its tough nature necessitates a low and slow cooking time. Hours have already been poured into its preparation, albeit ones in which your primary function is to tend to a simmering pot. So after the tripe is stewed, it tends to get eaten in a jiffy.
If you're looking for a change of pace, consider deep-frying the well-stewed tripe you have on hand. For an appetizer, take a few slices of tripe, dredge them in flour, salt, and cayenne pepper, and deep-fry the tripe for a minute or so in the hot oil. The slices of tripe will emerge transformed by the process: the honeycombed ridges and mop-like filaments will become paper-thin and crispy, forming an stiff armor around the interior of still-tender and chewy tripe.
Deep-frying tripe may also be one of the easier ways to introduce offal-squeamish eaters to the joys of stomach. Its winning crispiness not only creates textural pleasure but also disguises the looks of the honeycomb, which not everyone finds to be an asset.
Dipped in vinegar, deep-fried tripe makes for one addictive bar snack to be enjoyed straight out of the oil, eaten with fingers, chased with a cold beer. I think there is a profound relationship between vinegar and oily fried things. You could get more fancy and add finely sliced chili peppers, oil, and fish sauce or soy sauce to make a more balanced dipping sauce for the tripe. But I prefer my deep-fried tripe (and pig's ears too) with nothing more than a little dish of malt vinegar. It's more acerbic and a better foil, I think, to cut through the richness of deep-fried offal.