Recently I have become nostalgic for Takohachi Restaurant on Jackson Street in Seattle -- the old one. The one where the slender bespectacled owner exclaimed to everyone coming in, "Hai, dozo!" I always ordered the Kasuzuke Gindara (sake lees-marinated and grilled sablefish), miso and a little mound of sweet/tart Tsukemono -- pickled things
On one of our trips to Mexico City in the 90s my husband and daughter and I stayed at the Galería Plaza. One afternoon, while standing at the concierge's desk, I heard one young man helping someone on the telephone. He had the usual musical Mexico City accent. When we were done with our business with the concierge, I looked up and saw that the face that belonged with that voice was a handsome Japanese man. I wondered how he got there in the middle of Mexico City with a Chilango accent.
Last May I came across an article in Inside Mexico by Lorraine Orlandi called "East to the Americas". Ms. Orlandi reveals the migration story of a group of Japanese men to Acacoyagua, Chiapas, Mexico in 1897. They were promised land on which to grow coffee, but the best land had already been taken. They stayed, married Mexican women, started businesses and assimilated. What a story! I encourage you to click on the link above to read the story.
Once in Cuernavaca, my Lebanese cab driver told me that "Mexico is a country that welcomes everyone". Indeed it is as evidenced by my Chicakasaw Freedman grandmother, Elizabeth Cohee's immigration document. In honor of my nostalgia, in honor of the young Japanese immigrant men and in honor of Mexico's willingness to accept people from other countries, I created Tsukemono a la Mexicana, pickled cabbage with orange, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds.
1 Small cabbage
1 Carrot, shredded or julienned
1 Serrano chile
1 Orange, cut into sections
3 T White vinegar
1 tsp. Honey
3 T Toasted pumpkin seeds
Shred the cabbage ultra finely with a mandolin.Salt the shredded cabbage and carrot liberally and let it soften. After about 15 minutes, rinse, drain and pat dry. Put cabbage in a bowl. Cut the pomegranate in four and take the seeds (arils) out. Place in a tall narrow container. Reserve the arils of one quarter of the pomegranate for later. With a muddler or the end of a rolling pin, smash the arils until they release their juice. Strain the juice into a small bowl.Add the honey and vinegar. Slice the serrano chile very thinly and add to the cabbage. Add the orange sections, pour on the juice vinegar liquid and salt to taste. Toss. Serve with the reserved arils and chopped pumpkin seeds.