An old college friend came into town with his wife and three children. I can't believe how long it has been since we were living on the same dorm floor together in Santa Barbara. Seeing him and sharing old stories brought back a lot of good memories.
I was on the phone earlier in the day with another friend of mine. I said to her I needed to make dinner for five kids and four adults. She said that sounded like a regular day for me. You know what, she was right. I always seem to have large gatherings of people to cook for. I love it though. I decided to cook tacos. Everyone likes tacos, right?
So, the idea of Asian style tacos may sound a bit strange to you. I guess it is a little odd. Sometimes, I just come up with crazy ideas. This concept isn't original though. I can't take all of the credit. There are lots of Mexican-Asian fusion restaurants popping up around the country. There are some in New York, Los Angeles, and in Denver. I am sure there are more I haven't heard of. It's kind of a thing now. Besides, I like all sorts of tacos. So, adding an Asian twist sounded interesting to me. This type of taco was a new experiment for me. I was pleased with the results.
Asian Fusion Tacos.
I still wanted to have beans and rice but I used Basmati rice and lentils instead of the traditional Mexican pinto beans. Substituting for the regular taco meat, I used shitake mushrooms. If shitake mushrooms are not available at your local store, you could use any type of mushroom or change this to chicken or fish if you prefer. Chicken or fish would go very well with all of the other ingredients too. Portobello mushrooms would also be an excellent choice. It's not so much the mushroom that makes this recipe Asian. So, it isn't imperative that you use shitake mushrooms.
The best part of this taco is the sauce. I threw in a lot of different ingredients until it tasted just right. I was nervous feeding this meatless taco to Claud. I never know what kind of a reaction I will get out of him when I serve him dinner without meat in it.
He didn't say a word about the food while we ate. Then, as I picked up all of the plates, I asked him, "So, what did you think? Did you like it?" He told me it was really good. He liked it! He didn't even mention the lack of meat. Did he even notice? I didn't say anything.
Asian Fusion Tacos
Time: 35 minutes
cups cooked lentils
cups rice, cooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces mushrooms (any type) or substitute with chicken or fish
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
8 corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado
cup grated carrots
cup sprouts (any type)
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons miso paste or 1 cube beef or vegetable bullion
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes
juice of half of an orange
cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 cups cilantro
3 tablespoons chili oil or olive oil
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Saut onions for ten minutes. Add mushrooms and saut for another five minutes. Add apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix in the lentils to heat them up. Set this mixture aside. In same pan, heat up tablespoon olive oil. Heat the tortillas in the oil for about 2 minutes each side. In a food processor, combine the garlic and miso or bullion. Blend well. Add honey, soy sauce, red pepper, orange juice, vinegar, cilantro and oil. Pour the sauce into a bowl. Pat the tortillas on a paper towel to remove the layer of oil. Layer the avocado on the tortillas. Add carrots, lentils, rice, and sprouts. Drizzle on the sauce. Serve hot.
Everyone loved the sauce and kept adding more. So often, it is the sauce that really makes a meal stand out. Sauces add so many flavors to the dish. This one did for sure. The combination of the salty soy sauce with the sweet honey and orange juice blended exceptionally well. The other day, I ate some fish tacos at a local bar. They were pretty good but they were dry. The missing ingredient was a good sauce. Even traditional Mexican tacos should have some hot sauce and sour cream to make them delicious.
My biggest surprise was that the kids all seemed to love these meatless tacos. Either they liked them a whole lot or they were very hungry because every last taco was eaten. That's always a good sign.
At the end of the meal, Jeff, my college buddy, brought out some old photos of our days during that first year at UCSB. Wow, hairstyles have changed. Remember when perms were cool? What was I thinking? I had short brown permed hair. It wasn't pretty. I wont even get into the outfits I wore. While we looked through the photos, he asked if cooking was always my passion. He said he loved these unique tacos and wondered how long I had been cooking. I thought about it and said, "No, not always". I explained to him how I sent in an article to The Journal years ago about my first vegetable garden and how I took my new vegetables and turned them into this amazing ratatouille. I did like to cook but once I got the offer to write the food column, my cooking passion took flight. I have learned so much about food and nutrition since that first article. I have loved learning and writing about my experiences ever since. It was nice of my old friend to remind me how this all started.