Definitely NOT one of the 5 major food groups

Definitely NOT one of the 5 major food groups

Ever had tripe stew? No? Oh, how I wish I could say the same. Suffering from a cold last week, a hot bowl of stew sounded good for lunch, so after class we headed to Cumana, a legendary Buenos Aires restaurant known for its empanadas and stews.

Cumana restaurant image

Cumana (in Recoleta) sometimes has a line down the street of locals and tourists alike waiting to get in

Their menu lists ~10 different homemade stews. We had tried 2 before and asked our server which others she recommended, and her top suggestion was the mondongo. Now, my Spanish is not great, but I’m pretty sure she said it contained tomatoes, onion, and a part of the cow (while gesturing toward her back). We had been to Cumana before and told our waitress that we didn’t like “organs” (seemed like the easiest word to use to get our point across), and she assured us that none of their dishes contained organs, quickly putting us at ease. So this time I didn’t think twice and went for the mondongo suggested by our server.  Bad idea.

My stew showed up after our fabulous empanada appetizers, and I quickly noticed a substance floating on top with texture not often found in food. It was smooth on one side, and wrinkled and lumpy on the other – think cauliflower. I dodged this and instead tested the waters with a bite of broth and vegetables. It wasn’t terrible, but it seemed to have a funny taste that I didn’t particularly like, so after a few more cautious bites, I left it relatively untouched.

Guiso de mondongo image

Looked like a relatively innocent stew . . . with certain unidentifiable ingredients

When we got home, I decided to google “mondongo” to see what it was – turns out it’s a traditional Argentine tripe stew. Mm, mm, cow stomach – just what I was hoping for to help get rid of my cold.  Apparently that’s not considered an organ here?  Thought we’d been relatively clear when we said we didn’t like organs in our food – guess next time we’ll have to say “mondongo” as well, along with all the other non-meat parts that us Americans shy away from. Lesson learned.  Now if only I could find Campbell’s chicken noodle soup here . . .

Campbell's chicken noodle soup image

Sometimes you really need some "mm, mm, good"... But if you're in Argentina, there is NO SOUP FOR YOU! Only tripe!

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  • JLA June 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Actually, ‘m pretty sure there is Campbell’s here! I think I actually read about it in another expat blog – although I think they were wondering WHY it was here ;-) If I recall where I’ll pass along the info.

  • Sandra June 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Perhaps the people at Cumana thought you were referring to reproductive organs… Believe it or not, mondongo used to be one of the favorite dishes of my childhood. It has to be very well prepared so it doesn’t taste like chewing gum.
    But there’s good news for you. You can find Campbell’s soups and other canned meals at Carrefour. At least I saw them at the one on Federico Lacroze and Soldado de la Indepencia in Belgrano last Friday.

    • jen June 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      I know – my Spanish teacher tells me it’s one of her favorites too (along with heart and thinly-sliced tongue served alongside cheese and bread). Guess it’s just not my thing . . .
      But we have heard that Carrefour sometimes has Campbell’s so we’ll definitely check it out next time we’re there!!

  • Allan September 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I feel for you, but wish your boundaries were a little broader. Tripe sandwiches from street vendors were one of my culinary highlights in Italy. I am not immune from ordering something I can’t handle though. I got a sheep’s brain in France – it was a long meal…

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