What do chefs eat when they get off work? Tacos, of course.
And if you’re a chef who cooks Japanese food, you may want Japanese tacos.
Marc Spitzer runs Takumi Taco, a sidewalk vendor that marries Japanese flavors with one of New York’s favorite Latino street foods. On a sunny morning at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg food fair, hungry Brooklynites line up for Spitzer’s spicy tuna, miso chicken and Japanese curry beef, all folded into a taco. The day we visited he was playing with seaweed-sprinkled cotton candy.
It’s not as crazy as it might sound.
The tart Japanese fruit called yuzu is not so far from the limes used in Mexican food. Shiso, the delicate serrated leaf that sometimes tops sushi, is Japan’s cilantro (even though it comes from the mint family). And Japan’s cayenne-like spice shichimi could be the chili pepper’s little sister.
In creating Japanese tacos, Spitzer follows a long-standing New York tradition of culture splicing. Yes, he grew up working in his parents’ kosher restaurant. But that restaurant was in Queens, a borough of the city where immigrants from Jamaica, India, Nigeria, Columbia, Thailand and all over the globe meet in a gigantic culinary cultural mash-up. To see for yourself, jump on the #7 Flushing Local train and start eating when you get to Sunnyside.
— Text by Michele Kayal
— AFR video by Carol Hallowell