2019 may be the year chef Dan Pepperell makes tripe sexy. Or at least something you want to eat.
I find myself contemplating its texture and thinking of ways I can get to Alberto Lounge so I can tear off a piece of bread and with gusto run it through the trippa alla romana’s sauce.
I’ve been burned by the traditionally Roman dish before. I’ve had some real stinkers – and I mean that literally. I was in Italy last year and the tripe dishes I ate had a real whiff of barnyard, and were also as rubbery as Juicy Fruit. They sure as hell didn’t taste like butter chicken.
Yet here we are and Sydney’s restaurant-of-the-moment is serving tripe that will make you reassess what it means to eat offal. I know you don’t believe me and even the word “offal” turns lots of people off, but trust me, it’s delicious.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so – Pepperell says he’s been blown away by the response to the dish. “It’s been crazy. One guy came in the other day and all he had was a bowl of tripe and then left.”
Pepperell came up with the idea when he and the Swillhouse group (Alberto's Lounge, Restaurant Hubert, The Baxter Inn among others) went to Europe on an eating and drinking adventure. In Paris he noticed a lot of food with an Indian influence, in much the same way as much Australian food has an Asian bent, and he liked the idea.
There are two reasons it’s caught so many people’s attention, one of which is its texture. Some of the tripe (which is the edible lining from the stomachs of animals, this time the cow) is kept light and spongy, as is its way, and some of it is rolled in tapioca flour and fried crisp. The juxtaposition works splendidly. And then there’s the sauce.
“It’s made with the same ingredients of butter chicken: garlic, onions, garam masala, fenugreek, cinnamon, but also with lots of guanciale,” says Pepperell.
Guanciale is cured pork cheeks, which is used in amatriciana or carbonara. A handful of mint is added to finish it off.
“When people eat it [the tripe dish] they say, ‘It’s weird, I can’t put my finger on what it tastes like, but I’ve tasted it before, what is it?’ And when you say it’s like butter chicken, they say, ‘Yes, of course’. Everyone loves butter chicken.”