Menudo: Mind Over Matter

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The thin, fiery caldo (broth) passes along your tongue in a wave of complex, rich flavors. Another spoonful confirms that, despite your initial skepticism, there is hope that you could possibly like this Mexican comfort food. Your spoon dives again, only this time it retrieves a chunk of meat from within the spicy broth. You take a deep breath, deposit the spoon’s contents in your mouth, and chew. And chew. And chew.

Menudo is a mind game of flavor versus texture. Like other foods of similar paradox (foie gras and blood sausage come to mind) it makes us wonder how and why someone actually first thought to eat something like a cow’s stomach and intestine in a soup. With these types of food, one general rule applies. Don’t think – just eat.

Across the table, my father eagerly digs into his menudo, relishing every bite and recalling his childhood in rural Mexico when he could savor this delicacy only once per week when the meat was available. The hours-long task of slow-cooking the meat would rotate among the families and they would gather on Saturdays to share the comfort of a meal together. For him, menudo is disassociated with the stomach of an animal and instead it is a special occasion food full of childhood memories.

Despite the mind games, the robust flavors of menudo – the chiles, hominy, garlic, onion, and oregano – are worth a try. If you can’t get past the ingredients, try menudo’s cousin, pozole, which is a soup made with chicken, pork and hominy. Both specialties are offered weekly (pazole on Friday and menudo on Saturday and Sunday) at El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul.