Polish traditional dish – beef tripe

Flaaaaki gorące…

This phrase reflects literally a call of the fast food peddler at the Warsaw market, now unfortunately nonexistant.

Believe me, although physically I am now several thousand miles away, my spirit for all the times resides in Warsaw, the City where I was born and raised.  Evidently, it must be some kind of a mysterious place; no one can be neutral toward Warsaw.  You must either hate it or become crazy about this town that has a soul.  Every stone, every brick, every square meter of sidewalk has a story to tell on its own.  Every street intersection has a history; every piece of lawn hides its own secret.  Torches, candles, crosses remind us of
those Times when hundreds of thousand people gathered together and became our Heroes…

Bazar Rozyckiego is a flea market on the East river bank town section called old Praga. Some time ago, during dark of the Reds, here was the very center of the elite of Warsaw’s free private enterprise. Manufacturers and traders used to keep their kiosks and booths here. They were good, credible, reputable firms; there was no other way possible to survive on the tough market. Dishonest vendors simply did not have any right to exist

I still remember the aroma of that specific dish, served from an enameled bucket under linen cloth. The Flaki with marjoram and black pepper smelled irresistibly from the basket. For equivalent of a few pennies, one could get a huge bowl of tasty tripe and, if so desired, secretly poured one hundred gram of another famous Polish product, a shot of straight vodka. It was a must, a tradition, to relax after whole day spent shopping in open air.

And, yes, this fresh Polish bread with thick, crusty skin. Hygiene was not an issue. The old women, called Grandma, washed and sanitized the dishes in cold water by the hydrant nearby. Ethanol assured protection from any microbial cross-contamination.

The most delicious Flaki, are made out of beef tripe. Some connoisseurs prefer veal tripe, called „krezki”. Pork-derived product is also used, yet not so good. The best material for the dish is a single beef stomach, regularly shaped. For veal tripe one could organize a veal stomach at a pharmaceutical plant or directly from a farmer.

In the United States, it is possible to purchase raw tripe already cleaned and bleached with chlorine, unfortunately, with a little too much fat grown in. Beef stomach is also bought by Mexicans for menudo, or by Italians for Trippa, a thick-cooked substance, consumed with potatoes or gnocchi.

For Flaki, we should get up to ten pounds of tripe. I cannot explain why, but the recipe works the best in a three or four gallon pot.  In a kitchen sink, or better in a bath tub, under cold water, the tripe should be scrubbed and excess of fat simply cut off and discarded. Scrubbed tripe, cut up into squares to fit in our vessel, is placed in a pot and covered with cold water. The pot is covered, brought to boil and slowly cooked for about twenty minutes to half an hour. Any foam or particulate rising to the surface should be removed, skimmed, so to speak.

At this time, let’s not forget to ventilate out kitchen as well as we can. The smell of first-cooked tripe cannot be classified in the most pleasant category.

If we want to reduce the time to heat the pot up to the boiling temperature, here is a simple trick. Place a kitchen cloth, folded in four, on the cover of the boiling pot. To prevent scorching, we can either frequently stir the contents of the pot or place tripe in water that is already boiling.

Now, the tripe is strained and the boiling operation repeated one more time. Stomach cooked twice is cut or rather shredded into stripes 3/8” wide by 2” long. Yes, this is the procedure that takes entire family.  Anything is worth spending quality time together. The Flaki do not stink any more.

Shredded flaki are finally cooked until tender and separated from the liquid. The stripes are added to a beef broth or reconstituted broth concentrate. Candidates for vegetarians use hot water and Vegeta mix (sarcasm). Please note that Flaki, whatever animal derived from, is not a Kosher dish since stomach is an organ and organs are not Kosher.

As a culinary pervert (cookbooks are full of regular recipes), I admit that I like to add vegetables cut in thin stripes, namely carrots, parsley root, celery root, pan fried on butter or oil for a minute or two with chopped onions. I also use a little garlic. For a bucket of tripe, it takes a little over a pound and half of such a mix.

Now, let’s exhibit some artistic ingenuity.  Let’s open our spice box and turn the imagination loose. Marjoram goes in first. This flavor has to dominate over all other herbs. Bay leaves and allspice are common and predominant additives in most Polish soups. For the above amount of tripe, I would use ten leaves and maybe a tablespoon of whole allspice. These two spices must be cooked at least for a few minutes, to fully release their flavor. If we have classical herbal pepper from Poland, we certainly should try it, too. Otherwise, black pepper will suffice, then, nutmeg, ground ginger, red Spanish or Hungarian paprika, a pinch of Cajun pepper or Pepperoncino, perhaps a little (I said a little) yellow curry powder. Feel free to adjust flavor concentration („umami” note) with Vegeta. Finally, very carefully finish with salt to taste.

Tripe liquid should be relatively clear (do not try to enrich with flour or cornstarch since it will blanden the flavor and reduce shelf life), brownish with visible particulate of marjoram and other spices, with very intense, exotic, pleasant aroma. The tripe pieces should not be too tender, yet easy to bite and chew. Generally, a dish should aggressively appeal to the consumer and if we observe the guests adding soy sauce or Maggi concentrate at the table, it is an indication of either our lack of culinary talent, or their lack of class.  Or both.

Some chefs maintain that the best Flaki are the ones of Warsaw style, in other words, with pulpets or meatballs. Here we go: About 20 minutes before end of cooking, we can add small meatballs directly to the pot, rolled about 3/4“ in diameter, prepared of lean ground beef with a little salt and pepper. The heat should be reduced so the pulpets retain their shape and do not fall apart. To make them more delicate, an egg and a piece of soaked bread can be added to the meat before the meatballs are rolled.

In the entire course of final cooking, tripe should be uncovered and liquid replenished with hot water from a teakettle. Periodically, fat can be skimmed away to reduce cholesterol, if we really want to believe the dietary hysteria that mass media impose on us.

The serving of tripe can be called presentation. The ideal way is to heat up thick ceramic bowls in the oven and pour the Flaki in. The bowls are placed on saucers or small plate, covered with folded paper or linen napkin. A small stalk of green parsley can be put in for decoration. In a basket, hot hard bread is placed, preferably dark full rye or full wheat Graham with thick, crunchy crust skin, just like we do in the Old Country. Of condiments, nothing but salt, pepper and maybe grated Swiss cheese should be present on the table.

Second plate is not necessary when we serve tripe. If you ask me about wine selection, my answer is none. However, beer served in foggy-chilled mugs with high head of foam is very appropriate. Also, very palatable addition is a two-ounce shot of straight crystal-clear vodka, well frozen to oily consistency. Because of high caloric value of this type of food, it is acceptable to drink a little more alcohol than normally, although as always, I have to warn against exaggeration in this matter.

The image below comes from Magda Gessler’s recipe for Warsaw style Flaki.


Of course, Tripe, as a meat dish, are totally unacceptable for Wigilia, the Christmas Eve supper. Also, as an organ food, are not to be considered Kosher. But good luck trying to keep it away from your „older brother in faith”, who drools when seeing and smelling your dinner. We may explain to him, that kosher vodka from the freezer will „kosherize” all the food and now our conscience is calm and quiet.  We can share the table and contribute to the peace making.

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3 odpowiedzi na „Polish traditional dish – beef tripe

  1. Pani Blue pisze:

    Kupuję gotowe, w słoiku, jak jestem piekielnie głodna po pracy. Babcia umiała gotować, mama, ja nie potrafię. Regres pokoleniowy.
    Przy okazji sprawdzę, co za słoiczki kupuję, ale z tego samego zakładu też gołąbki. Można czepiać się, niemniej smakują jak własne przetwory domowe.
    Zimne nóżki wieprzowe też gotowe Co robić, Panie Piotrze? Takie życie – pośpieszne, zabiegane, zapracowane. A jeść się chce.
    Uściski dla Pana po dłuższej przerwie.
    PS: Ładna angielszczyzna.

  2. bardzo pisze:

    Ten tekst powstał wiele lat temu dla dwujęzycznej gazety podchicagowskiej Polish Suburban News. Polska wersja wisi gdzieś na samym początku Kulinarnych Fantazji. To o atmosferze Różyckiego, z pewną dozą absurdalnych metaforek. Warszawa żyje absurdalnymi przenośniami.

    P.S. To nie tyle angielszczyzna ile angloamerykańszczyzna, ale dziękuję za uznanie.

  3. Pingback: Flaaki gorące | Fantazje kulinarne


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