The Wonderful World of Offal at El Tenampa
El Tenampa's tacos (left to right): panza negra, carne enchilada, panza blanca
Out on 21st Street in Brooklyn, in the neighborhood that real-estate agents like to call the South Slope but is really Greenwood Heights, is El Tenampa, a large Mexican grocery store with a restaurant in the back. It's a fluorescently lit boxy space where the tortillas are appropriately pliable with lard and the spicy shrimp-laden soup, caldo de camaron, is served in plastic pint containers.
The kitchen offers a larger meat selection than most for filling its tacos. There are the standards, like carne enchilada, braised brisket suadero, bistec, salted beef cesina, and al pastor spinning on a spit and bookended by pineapple. But there is also an impressive lineup of interior bits -- head meat, braised tongue, and buche, chewy, postage-stamp-size chunks of pig stomach. Here, tripe is not the honeycomb variety but appears instead as chitterlings, round tubes of intestine that are seared until crunchy and then chopped to bits on a worn wooden cutting board.
Caldo de camaron
There are even two types of goat panza, supple belly and stomach meat. One is unadorned and white, with only the faintest whiff of funk. The other, negra, is blackened with simmered blood and as soft as pudding. If offal makes you skittish, just douse it with everything in the well-stocked condiment bar -- a wild array of sliced radish, cucumber, and lime; four different salsas of varying heat; guacamole; and pickled jalapeño, carrot, and onion escabeche -- a selection surpassed only by Vegas buffets.
El Tenampa; 706 4th Ave, Brooklyn, 718-369-7508
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