Cooking Kenyan matumbo aka tripe, during a coronavirus lockdown, when we are all cooped up in the house, doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Expect Kenyan matumbo is the hearty comfort food that I turn to when I am homesick. Matumbo also makes the rest of my family gag with disgust.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. This saying is more pertinent in interracial or interfaith relationships. The first time I made tripe my husband came in and asked, “Why does the kitchen smell of poo. I am not eating some shit-smelling food!”
I took great offence and pleasure in knowing that I was about to enjoy my favourite delicacy – alone! Matumbo is one of my favourite Kenyan food.
Matumbo evokes me so many happy memories from my childhood, of family get-togethers. The men would make mutura (intestine sausages). The women, as in most African cultures, would clean the stinky innards, like tripe.
Some people from my Kikuyu tribe claim that leaving a bit of poo in the tripe gives it a richer flavour. To each their own. I like mine clean.
When I am in Kenya, I prefer to buy green beef tripe. The honeycomb tripe is meatier or the abomasum tripe, which looks like a frizzled towel.
I don’t eat as much tripe/matumbo here in Denmark as I would like. The options for tripe are few and far between, and can only be found in Middle-Eastern butcheries.
These butcheries often bleach the tripe beforehand. I prefer to clean my own; the pungent smell of shit is part of the charm.
If you buy it unclean or unbleached, you want to make sure that you wash it under running water. Scrub the green impurities and trim inedible parts before you can start the boil.
How to prepare Kenyan matumbo
You must get all impurities out. These may include sand (if the animal was grazing in a sandy area). What’s terrific about tripe is that it is easy to cook, yet many people get the cleaning process wrong.
I’d recommend soaking the tripe overnight in a vinegar-water solution. If you don’t have this option, rinse the tripe then place it in a large pot, add enough water that submerges the meat.
Add three cloves of garlic, two bay leaves into the water. Leave it to boil for 3.5 hours or 1 hour if you are using a pressure cooker. Twenty minutes if you plan to use a slow cooker, as I did for this recipe.
The matumbo should be tender, but not overcooked at this stage. Cut it up into small bite-size pieces.
By this stage, your house is stinking. Your children are gagging with disgust. They want to open the windows for fresh air, but it is freezing outside. Your spouse is wondering how on earth anything that smells like shit can make you so happy.
There is a probability that your family will go out for a walk—thereby leaving you to enjoy your smelly culinary experience by yourself. Such is a healthy compromise. Carry on!
The need to accommodate each other’s delicacies in an interracial relationship is profound. I am fortunate that my family enjoys the majority of the Kenyan food that I make.
But, they do harbour particular strong dislikes to certain delicacies that I love. They swear they will never eat matumbo, chicken liver, chicken hearts, beef tongue, chicken gizzards, and omena.
Even though it is true that a family that eats together stays together, in my case, a family that leaves me to enjoy my stinky delicacies in peace, is a happy one.
Without much ado, here is my classic Kenyan tripe/matumbo recipe that I learnt from my mother.
- ½ kgs pre-boiled lamb, goat or cow matumbo/tripe
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, sliced thinly
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce (optional)
- One bunch of coriander (chop the stems, save the leaves for garnishing)
- 1tsp garam masala
- 2 Maggi beef cubes
- 4 cloves of garlic
- Thumb size ginger
- Three hot chillies, more or less depending on your taste palette.
- 500ml water (preferably beef stock)
- Start by boiling the tripe for 3.5 hours or 1 hour if you are using a pressure cooker. Twenty minutes if you plan to use a slow cooker, as I did for this recipe.
- Heat up oil in a pan, add onions and cooks until browned. Add matumbo together with coriander stems and fry for 8 minutes. The aroma from coriander stems enhances the matumbo’s flavour.
- Blend tomatoes, ginger and garlic into a paste. Add garam masala and crush the beef cubes into the matumbo mix.
- If you have a slow cooker, make sure it is preheating, then transfer the matumbo tomato mix into the pot, add salt, water and cook on high for 3-4 hours. If you don’t have a slow cooker, proceed to the next step.
- If you had pre-boiled the tripe for 3 hours or 1 hour in a pressure cooker, follow the above steps, but reduce the cooking time. Let it simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat until the meat is done and the sauce is thickened.
- Add chilli if you like your food spicy.
- Garnish with coriander and serve with ugali or chapatti.
Reduce tomatoes from 3 to 2 if you want a less sweet taste.