While growing up (preadolescence), I had some friends of Mexican ancestry who allowed me to taste Mexican menudo before telling me what was in it. Not only did I not like the taste, I didn’t like the ingredients (the tripe, mainly).
Consequently, I avoided being around any food that looked like, smelled like or was even called menudo for many years. This includes Filipino menudo, which shares very few ingredients with the Mexican version. The Mexican version is a soup and the Filipino version is a stew (or at least, it’s supposed to be a stew).
I’m probably not the first person to notice how certain Filipino dishes are very similar to others. Except for some minor differences, Filipino menudo could be called afritada (or apritada), kaldereta or mechado. Many of the ingredients are the same, such as tomato sauce, salt and pepper, garlic and onions.
Except for menudo, other Filipino dishes usually include the kind of meat used with the title. Examples are beef kaldereta or kaldereta kambing (goat stew), chicken or pork adobo and chicken or pork tocino. Menudo is usually just called menudo, regardless of what kind of meat is used (though it’s usually pork).
I was eating Filipino menudo for years without even knowing it because the type my wife, Josie, makes isn’t the traditional recipe. She uses ground beef instead of the meat of other animals. It wasn’t until 2012 that I knew what I was eating and it was purely by accident.
My oldest grandson wouldn’t eat it the first time Josie tried to get him to eat it. I think he was four back then. Someone (Josie or his father) told him it was monster food and that got him to try it. He liked it and has asked for it specifically as “monster food” many times since then.
One day, I asked Josie what “monster food” was really called, and she told me. It struck me as odd until I looked up the differences between the Filipino and the Mexican versions of the menudo.
I’ve watched Josie cooking menudo many times and I’ve only had to ask her once about the ingredients she used. When she makes it, she makes enough for three or four servings, depending on the serving size. I can’t tell you all the proportions but the ingredients seem like one pound of ground beef, one red bell pepper, one potato, a large can of tomato sauce, a can of garbanzos, one onion, some garlic and salt and pepper. It’s delicious.
The ingredient I find interesting is garbanzos, also called chickpeas. These are legumes I’d never tasted until moving to the Philippines in 2006. For the uninformed, it’s the main ingredient of hummus, a popular part of Middle-Eastern cuisines. Don’t worry, I didn’t know that either until watching the movie “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” sparked my curiosity.