I’ll be very honest. Growing up, I did not like menudo.
I didn’t like the smell, the texture or the taste but it was more the smell, I really didn’t like the smell.
Menudo is definitely an acquired taste.
Matter of fact, many of the foods I eat now I didn’t eat growing up.
Foods like caldo de colas de res(oxtail soup) and cow tongue tacos are an acquired taste and are so good.
As far as menudo, it wasn’t until I got married and my wife started making it that I acquired a taste for it and now look forward to cold winter days and hot bowls of menudo.
We mostly buy our tripe from a local meatpacking plant by the box. It’s processed and cleaned extensively with chemicals so it tastes somewhat bland but it will do.
But I really like the taste of fresh menudo and luckily I know of a hidden spot that does it right.
Rio Grande Zacatecas
You’ll find it in the city of Rio Grande, Zacatecas.
That’s why when we go to visit family in Mexico we always make sure to stop in Rio Grande.
As I think about it, I don’t know if the local has a name. All I know is it’s located on Calle Constitucion and on the second level in Mercado Juarez.
There are actually three locales or spaces divided up by a little wall. It’s always full of locals and a few others who know about it. So stop in and order a large bowl of menudo. You’ll be glad you did.
History of Menudo
So years ago I wondered how in the world someone came up with the concept of menudo. I mean it’s intestines(honeycomb tripe is the best), pigfeet, with red chile and hominy all thrown together and boiled in a delicious soup concoction.
Now I realize there are a couple of versions out there but this is the one I found and makes the most sense to me. Of course, I am not a historian nor do I play one on tv.
So the story goes that when hacendados had an important event. They would have their peons or campesinos kill a cow for the meal.
They, of course, would take the meaty cuts and discard the offal meats like intestines and internal organs of the butchered animal since they were basically considered useless.
Innovative and resourceful people, however, made the best out of the situation, they took the organ meats cleaned them up and came up with a way to make them edible.
Intestines/tripe is tough and must be cooked at length before becoming edible.
So boiling the tripe is the best way to soften it up and heck since it’s already boiling why not add some red chile seasoning.
This backstory seems legit and in my mind is the most likely way Menudo really came to be.
And now, people from all walks of life enjoy this savory dish.
There are some distinctions, however, some like it with hominy others without.
Some eat it with pan blanco others exclusively with corn tortillas.
Now as much as I like Menudo, I really like the backstory more because it reminds us that we always have to do the best with what has been given to us.
No complaining, no excuses, just plain resourcefulness.
So if you are ever traveling early morning through Highway 49 through Rio Grande Zacatecas be sure to make a quick stop at this hidden spot in Mercado Juarez and get you some rico menudo.
You’ll be glad you did.