Like the increasingly popular vegan versions of Thai food that are popping up around town, sushi is starting to catch the Tofurky Syndrome. This is what I call the attempt to make animal-product-like food out of animal-product-free ingredients—Tofurky being, essentially, tofu in the shape, color, and arguably flavor and texture of turkey. In the Thai restaurants that go vegan, this translates into a colorful assortment of protein pretenders that you can’t help but be impressed by, even if you think it’s a bit silly.
Albuquerque is busting at the seams with new eating spots. I salivate whenever I see a chain-link fence with a wind-whipped banner shouting, “Opening Soon!” But on the hunt for recently opened eateries, I also found an established treasure or two.
While billions of Asians use chopsticks every day of their lives, here in the West, we encounter them most often in restaurants. I learned to eat with chopsticks before I was 5. My mom took two pairs of adult-sized chopsticks and whittled them down to kid-size. She painted one set blue for my younger brother, and one set pink for me. These were special and much better balanced for our small hands.
Japanese Kitchen is doing something right. The well-established restaurant has barley a glimpse of street view—and from Americas Parkway, at that. Buried in a nondescript business cluster across Louisiana from ABQ Uptown, Japanese Kitchen is spread between two kitty-cornered buildings that are separated by a shaded plaza. Despite their near-invisibility, Japanese Kitchen’s sushi bar and steakhouse get quite busy—even rowdy at times, especially in the teppan corner.
Sometimes it freaks me out when Chinese restaurants serve sushi. Japanese food is light and neat, leaving nothing to chance. Prepared with short, meticulous strokes, sushi is the epitome of this culinary ethos. Meanwhile, Chinese food is created with broad, heavy, greasy strokes, unafraid of the chaos of a stir-fry. The two foods don’t belong together, and it often seems like they only end up on menus that are cynically aimed at ignorant Americans who think all Asian food is the same.
Tea has had multiple applications for centuries—but only recently by Westerners—as an exciting component in Asian cooking: to infuse flavors into meats, jazz up marinades and sauces, and to create broths and garnishes. Here, food writer Mina Yamashita shares one of her favorite recipes.
“As American as apple pie” is a phrase I’ve heard forever. Yet every immigrant culture that makes up our melting pot contributes to a growing definition of American food. Such is the case with my family’s celebration of New Year’s Day.