Chinese Tripe

I have only vague memories of eating tripe as a child. Typically, it’s the food people of my age and background describe as the food “my parents made me eat”. I don’t have any such negative memories. I was always a bit of a “garbage guts” who would eat everything that was on offer. Liver? Yes. Kidney? Yes. Peas? Yes. Brains? Yes. Tripe? Sure, why not.

The house in which I grew up was a house where everyone was considerably older than me. I was the only child in a house of “old people”. On one occasion, I recall calculating the average age of the household was 52, and concluding it was only that low because I was 12 at the time. As a result of growing up with people who had grown up, largely, on farms, and who lived through one or two world wars, as well as the great depression, I was brought up with an open mind about food. About the only thing I never really liked was olives, and that all changed a couple of years ago anyway. I still couldn’t come at eating brains from a live monkey (as that’s just cruel, IMHO), but I’m open-minded about most food. Hey, in the midst of the current “horse meat in take away drama” being played out in the media, I’ve found myself asking “what’s wrong with that?”.

William, Ji-Shen, Kate, James

William, Ji-Shen, Kate, James

In that context, I LOVED eating out the Red Chilli Sichuan Restaurant on Sydney’s Glebe Point Road on Wednesday night. A group of us went there after attending the opening night of the Chinese New Year exhibition, Snake, Snake, Snake at Sydney Town Hall, which my friend Kate has curated.

In a three-tabled party of people who were largely Chinese born or Australian born Chinese, it was great to be taken into new areas of food I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. I loved, for example, the cold meat terrine (something I’ve never really associated with Chinese food before). There was a terrific celery soup which on the surface sounds a little bland, but which was very tasty. And in particular, I loved the tripe and beef dish.

“Chinese tripe is a totally different experience”, my friend and colleague Andrea told me today. She grew up in a mixed-race household with a Chinese father and a Dutch mother. She told me today how much she loved tripe prepared in the Chinese style compared with that prepared in the traditional European style, where it’s often served in milk. Having tasted the dish on Wednesday night, I’m inclined to agree.

  1. I actually had a situation where i had the live monkey brains offered to me ….. Didn’t go well!

    I’m thinking you should go down the food writer road James ☺

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    1. Oh yeah and whale. I couldn’t eat whale.

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  2. James, years ago there was a tripe & onions club in Brisbane. Apparently they’d identified a restaurant somewhere near Woollongabba (where there were many Ukrainian families if that has anything to do with it) and had a tripe-fest there every month. I recall eating it as a kid, the flavor was OK but I hated the rubbery texture, which is a reason you can have my share of squid and octopus.

    A few months ago my father said that during the war beef was not to be had in Qld unless you “knew someone”. It all went to the US forces, who would not eat mutton, so I imagine that tripe might have been available too, since if they would not touch mutton, they probably would not have tripe either.

    A French lady I know hails from east of the Rhone, where tripe sausages famed for their disgusting odour and flavor are eaten with gusto. Sort of reminds me of the fermented fish that folks in Scandinavia are supposed to favour.

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    1. You’ve sparked a memory for me, Ken. I remember hearing about Tripe & Onions Clubs in the past. It also made me think of the Jamie Oliver episode where he visited a surstromming club in Sweden.

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