I am a person who gets hangovers. Even as a teenager when everyone else around me seemed to be able to drink cheap vodka mixed with battery acid on an empty stomach and bounce right back, I was suffering. Not for me the two aspirin and a can of full fat Coke trick. I need to lie on a bed of gossamer, sipping angels’ tears from a cut glass goblet while eating crisps and waiting for the day to pass to put it all behind me. No amount of practise has ever really helped, although occasionally a ball of mozzarella eaten like an apple before bed can stave the situation off completely.
Therefore I am constantly on the hunt for hangover cure stories. I think that I’m one old wives’ tale or anecdote away from the hangover Holy Grail. I’ve tried the whole vitamin B before going out rumour, the milk thistle phase of the late 90s, the Gatorade by the bed trick, even the suggestion of mixing the liquid from a jar of gherkins with some soda water and downing it (spoiler alert: this is not the answer to any question, unless this question is ‘how I could feel immediately worse right now?’)
I think I know now nothing will ever be my ultimate answer, but that I can simply use this quest as a way to try new things along the way, which is how I came to know about sopa de mondongo or tripe soup. A Mexican-American friend online mentioned it once for its hangover curing qualities but still feeling scarred from the pickle juice, I screwed my face up and refused to even think about eating tripe even when I wasn’t feeling delicate.
However during the summer I met up with The Skint Foodie for lunch one day in Brixton and we went to El Rancho De Lalo in Brixton Village for one of their vast platters of Colombian food and the soup of the day was tripe. Because you get chicken, plantain, rice, avocado, salad and beans as well, I knew this was the time to try tripe because if it was horrible, I wouldn’t go hungry and I’d have something lovely to take the taste away. I needn’t have worried, one mouthful in and I was in love.
The tripe was tender and not at all rubbery or tough. Cut into small chunks, it had soaked up the flavour of the stock and the chilli and vegetables and was nourishing and fortifying. I finished the whole bowl and have eaten it several times since, thinking it would make an excellent hangover cure with its mix of calm soothing flavours and textures. However, converted as I am to cow’s stomach, I still didn’t want to start boiling panfuls of it at home and then I realised it would be perfect in the slow cooker for achieving the right yielding texture with very little work and I was sold on making my own sopa de mondongo at home.
Sopa de Mondongo or South American Tripe Soup (serves 4)
- 500g cleaned plain tripe
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 sticks celery, diced
- 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
- 2 eddoes or medium potatoes, cubed
- 50g hominy corn or add 150g sweetcorn at the end
- 1 bunch coriander stalks, chopped (leaves reserved)
- 3 spring onions, chopped
- 2 scotch bonnet chillies, whole
- 1 litre chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- 2 limes, halved
Tripe comes in four styles. The two most common in the UK are plain which is from the first stomach and is the one I’ve used here. I find it the least terrifying and least tripey looking but your mileage may vary. You’ll also get the honeycomb version which is what sounds like with its geometric markings and slightly more gelatinous texture when cooked. Both of these are often cooked in the UK in milk which helps to tenderise them, but frankly gives me the heebie jeebies at the same time. I prefer the Nigerian style of tomatoey stews or the South American soups myself.
Buy your plain tripe from the butcher already bleached and cleaned. Uncleaned or green tripe is not something I ever ever want to see or smell. Tripe isn’t quite as cheap as I expected, coming in at around £6 per kilo at Las Americas butchers in Brixton Village, but there’s no wastage on it so it’s still very economical. Give it a rinse under the tap and then put it in a large pan and pour boiling water over it. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes before draining. Allow to cool slightly and then cut into small cubes.
As well as introducing you to tripe, I’m also bringing two other ingredients to your life. Eddoes are a small root vegetable also known as taro. They have hairy brown skins with little tiger stripes and when you peel them, they exude a sticky sap. Wear gloves to peel them and keep them in water until needed as they turn black easily. They have a texture a bit like a potato but with a nuttier flavour and a fluffier finish. The soup also features hominy corn which is corn kernels that have been treated with an akaline to dry them to a texture more like you associate with pulses than corn. You simply cook it from dry and end up with soft but chewy texture unlike anything else. I fear I might worry you when I say it’s like adding popcorn to soup but the texture here works beautifully with the soft tripe.
Place these into the slow cooker crock along with the onion, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, eddoes, coriander stalks, spring onions and hominy corn. Season well with salt and pepper and lob the whole scotch bonnets in there. Pour the chicken stock in. This is a time to use a good homemade stock rather than a cube. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook it all on low for 8 hours.
Serve the soup in shallow bowls with some chopped chilli if you like, a good squirt of fresh lime juice and the chopped coriander leaves and just feel your hangover subside. And if it isn’t going fast enough, a beer on the side works very well here. If you really can’t face the tripe in a slow cooker mondongo when you feel delicate, then at least you have a marvellous anecdote from the recipe….