Thursday, August 30, 2007

When in NoVA..., pt. 1

Pho Tay Ho fig. a: lunchtime at Pho Tay Ho

Let's say you find yourself in Northern Virginia for a 3-4 day spell. Stay in the Arlington/Falls Church/Baileys Crossroads area (like we did last week) and it won't take long to notice the effects of what Mike Davis once termed "magical urbanism"--the Latinoization of America's urban centers--especially if you grew up in the region like I did. Twenty years ago or so, family-style Salvadoran establishments like Abi (the "punk rock" cantina famed for its pupusas, its 2-for-1 drink specials, and its large array of framed publicity shots by local Dischord, Teenbeat, and Simple Machines bands) had just begun to make inroads in the area, and Mexican restaurants were more often than not of the ersatz variety. These days, however, Salvadoran businesses of all types abound, as do Peruvian and Mexican businesses. This means plenty of inviting restaurants, of course, but it also means an impressive array of street food, from taco trucks, to grilled corn stands, to Mexican popsicle vendors. And it means that when you go to a Vietnamese restaurant like Pho Tay Ho, you might find that the staff is mostly Latino. Does this mean the local Vietnamese population has been entirely displaced? No, not at all. Northern Virginia's "magical suburbanism" is by no means exclusively Latino. The Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington might not have the density (and quality) of Vietnamese restaurants that made it famous 10-15 years ago, but if anything the range of Vietnamese dining options in the area overall has grown since then, with Falls Church's Eden Center--with its dozens upon dozens of Vietnamese diners, cafés, and eateries--being a veritable hive of activity.

Frankly, we were overwhelmed. Still reeling from Gourmet's special issue on Latino America, we felt as though we'd found a potential promised land. And few things (other than Latin American) get us as revved up as Southeast Asian cuisine. The problem is, we just didn't have the time to do the exploring the situation clearly demanded. We barely knew where to start. One plan was to compare the action at the recently opened and highly rated Taqueria Nacionale (check out this rave review in the Washington City Paper) with about a half a dozen of Northern Virginia's finest, but that idea got torpedoed in a hurry when we drove all the way Capitol Hill (of all places) only to find that the folks at Taqueria Nacionale were on summer vacation. In the end, our survey was hardly encyclopedic (next time!), but we still managed to hit upon some taste sensations.

Pho Tay Ho

A classic no-frills Vietnamese pho joint located in a classic no-frills ca. 1950s Northern Virginia strip mall, the Culmore Shopping Center. Everything was fresh and generous, from the fresh spring rolls with pork and shrimp, to the bowls of eye round and brisket pho, to grilled pork with vermicelli. The pho broth was exceptional, but the grilled pork with vermicelli was particularly dreamy, and just the right size, too (i.e. a full size larger than is standard issue here in Montreal--yes!).


Ethiopian in Northern Virginia? Back in the day, you had to drive to D.C. and particularly the U St./Adams Morgan corridor to find Ethiopian eats. As much as we loved getting out of NoVA and making our way into the city, there were plenty of times we wished we could have just made a quick jaunt over to Columbia Pike for an Ethiopian feast. We certainly would have been eating Ethiopian with more frequency. I couldn't believe Meaza when I spotted it: an Ethiopian restaurant/banquet/café/market on Columbia Pike? I became a believer soon enough, though--the vegetarian platter + beef stewed in red wine + doro wot (one chicken leg and one hard-boiled egg served in a dense and delectable chicken stew) made sure of that.

El Pollo Rico

We'd heard rumors that El Pollo Rico's Peruvian kitchen served up "the world's best chicken." Those are the kinds of rumors we just can't pass up. Now, I'm not sure I'm willing to anoint El Pollo Rico's chicken as "the world's best," but for a minute or two there, that fateful Thursday night, I could see why someone might want to. Our whole chicken came charcoal-grilled to perfection, and, lavishly rubbed in a magical spice and herb concoction, it was terribly flavorful. It was also succulent. Both of us lean towards dark meat when we're given a choice, but El Pollo Rico's white meat was simply unreal. We loved the accompanying sauces, too: a fiery jalapeño relish and a piquant mayonnaise number. The fries needed some work and the cole slaw wasn't my all-time favorite (Michelle wolfed hers down, though), but that chicken was nothing if not sensational. That is, until El Pollo Rico (which officially closes at 10 pm) sent out the cleaning team prematurely at 9:15.

Pho Tay Ho, 6015 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA (near Baileys Crossroads, in the Culmore Shopping Center) (703) 578-3037

Meaza, 5440 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA (703) 820-2870

El Pollo Rico, 932 N. Kenmore, Arlington, VA (703) 522-3220

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Top Ten #20

1. crab, crab tacos, crab louie

2. eating your way through the strip malls of Northern Virginia

3. Ways of Escape, Graham Greene

Upper Saranac Lake, NY

4. Upper Saranac Lake, NY

Burden of Dreams t-shirt

5. The Burden of Dreams, dir. Les Blank

6. esquites

7. A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

8. eating your way across Vancouver

9. Effi Briest, Theodor Fontane

10. Breakfast Lunch Tea, Rose Carrarini


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mexicali Crab, or A Pound of Crabmeat: Three Recipes in Three Days

stone crab 1 fig. a: mysterious package

Doesn't look like much, I know, but that which you see in the picture above was the beginning of an extraordinary food week here at " endless banquet." The fact that we had a truly stellar meal at Laloux on Wednesday night certainly didn't hurt, but, however unlikely this may sound, it was our annual shipment of crab from Gaspé that wound up stealing the show, leading to not one, not two, but three great home-cooked meals. And all that from just one lousy 500 ml container.

We had a very good feeling just as soon as we opened our container.

stone crab 2 fig. b: crabmeat from Gaspé

The crab was unbelievably fresh--just the color and the texture was enough to tell us so, but then that glorious smell of the sea came wafting into the air like a genie out of a bottle. We didn't even need to taste it to know how good it was, but we did anyway and we were happy we did. Delicious. The only "problem" was what to do with this treasure. Okay, so it wasn't much of a "problem"--a minor dilemma at best. Once again, we decided to divvy it up into two portions and make two different dishes with it--not because we were hedging our bets, though. We were just trying to stretch the crab out as much as possible, without stretching it so thin that it got lost in the process. We had no intention of "going Mexicali" (one recipe Mexican, the other Californian*) with the crab when we set out, but that's exactly what ended up happening. It didn't exert any kind of a direct influence on our dishes (as you see when you continue reading), but the phenomenal September 2007 issue of Gourmet on "Latino America," which turned up in our mailbox this week, definitely had an indirect influence on Dishes #2 and #3.

Dish #1 was actually pretty easy to settle on. We'd been out to Laloux the night before and we'd eaten and eaten well, so we were craving something light(ish). Something like a salad. Something like a crab salad. Something like a Crab Louie. Yes.

We consulted a number of Louie recipes, including one hailing from our beloved Swan Oyster Depot, where we enjoyed a fantastic Dungeness Crab Louie back in 2005, but, in the end, we decided to throw all caution into the wind and just wing it. So what if it wasn't the most authentic Louie of all time? We were pretty sure it was going to do justice to that Gaspé crab. This is what we did and here's how it turned out:

crab louie fig. c: AEB Crab Louie

Crab Louie à la AEB

1 cup (250 ml) crabmeat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp chipotle purée
1/8 cup sweet cucumber pickle (preferably homemade), finely chopped
1 tbsp capers
2-4 scallions, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bibb lettuce
1 perfectly ripe avocado, sliced
1 perfectly ripe tomato, sliced

In a medium bowl, mix the crabmeat, mayonnaise, chipotle purée, pickle, capers, scallions until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange several leaves of Bibb lettuce in a shallow bowl. Serve one generous dollop of the crab salad in the middle and adorn with slices of avocado and tomato.

Serves 4 as a small side or 2 as a light meal.

And we were right. The combo worked perfectly. Louie aficionados might scoff, but this was easily the best crab salad we'd had since San Francisco.

Then, last night, we had to figure out what to do with the second half of our crab booty. The path we followed was a circuitous one. It started with the idea of making ceviche. I opened up a few cookbooks before finally turning to Diana Kennedy and The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. I went directly to the index and made my way to "Crabs." There I saw listings for "Blue, Stuffed" and "in a Chile and Tomato Broth" and they both sounded intriguing, but I was pretty sure neither of them was appropriate for this particular occasion. But then I noticed another peculiar listing just above: "Crabmeat, Shredded, and Vegetables, 16." Now that piqued my curiosity. It was such a dull description, so dreadfully boring, that I just had to look. When I flipped to page 16, I found the recipe for Salpicón de Jaiba and the following account:
When I first visited Tampico at the beginning of the seventies, I found what was to become one of my favorite regional restaurants at that time in the Hotel Inglaterra. The owner, Fidel Loredo, the brother of José Inés Loredo, the famous restaurateur whose restaurants in Mexico City are still renowned today [ca. 2000], gave me this simple but delicious recipe. It smacks of Chinese food and perhaps the influence came from the Chinese merchant ships frequenting the port of Tampico. [my emphasis]

"Chinese merchant ships"? I'd heard the theories about Japanese fishermen and fish tacos, but here was something entirely new to me. Frankly, I was already sold on the idea, but when I read further and saw Kennedy's note that, "[this] salpicón makes a delicious filling for small tacos," I was doubly sold. For some reason, though, I wasn't sure if Michelle would be. I was convinced the celery would break the deal. To my surprise, however, Michelle was enthusiastic. She loved the idea of a taco filling, and she promptly began to wax poetic about Diana Kennedy and how 100% rock-solid she and her cookbooks are. Until Michelle found out about the FIVE serrano chiles, that is. Suddenly her tune changed. She began to balk, saying something about not wanting to "overwhelm" the delicate flavor of the crab. I held my ground, though. "Don't you start doubting Diana," I told her. "Don't you ever start doubting Diana." She looked at me as if I was going to start singing "Candle in the Wind," but instead I pulled out the big guns. I simply reiterated the two magic words: "taco" and "filling." And that was all it took.

Half an hour later, after we'd assembled our usual battery of condiments and other fixings and I'd followed Kennedy's directions to a tee, right down to the last detail, we were seated before four of the most mouth-watering, soul-stirring, earth-shaking soft-shelled tacos we'd ever seen. Kennedy's salpicón was unbelievably simple and more than a little leftfield, but all the more tantalizing because of it. We'd tasted the salpicón on its own, of course, just to see if the flavor lived up to the fantastic aroma, and we weren't disappointed in the least. Now we were going to get a chance to taste the whole enchilada, as it were, with Bibb lettuce, slices of avocado, sour cream, freshly made salsa, chopped scallions, and a dash of Tapatio. We dug in and we both had the same reaction: we've had our fair share of tacos over the years, and we've traveled far and wide to have them, but these may very well have been the best ever. We're rather partial when it comes to crab, as I'm sure you've gathered, but for a shredded taco filling, really, this was just about as good as it gets. And the crab didn't get overwhelmed in the least. It was the crabmeat that was in charge, just as you'd want it. In fact, I'd venture to say the crabmeat was calling a tune and the onion, celery, chiles, and cilantro--all of them--were dancing.

What did they look like? Well, this was what Michelle's first taco looked like moments before she added the sour cream and the salsa. Again, doesn't look like much, but looks can be deceiving...

crab taco fig. d: crab taco

Salpicón de Jaiba (from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
5 serrano chiles, finely chopped, with seeds
1 cup cooked, shredded crabmeat
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion gently until translucent.

Add the celery, chiles, and crabmeat and fry until they just begin to brown slightly. The mixture should be rather dry. Lastly add the cilantro and salt and cook for 1 minute more.

Serve with hot tortillas.

Makes enough to fill 8-10 corn tortillas.

It's hard to describe just how happy we were with this meal. Deep satisfaction, that's all I can say. But when we realized there was going to enough of that crab salpicón to make brunch the next day, we were nearly beside ourselves.

We quickly came up with the concept:

Crab Salpicón Breakfast Tacos

crab salpicón
hot tortillas
poached eggs
sour cream
chopped scallions

(I know you're with me on this one.)

And this is what it looked like:

crab taco breakfast thing fig. e: crab breakfast tacos

You probably can't tell from the photo above, but in our excitement, we kind of botched the poached eggs a little--they were just a bit overcooked. (The banquet may be "endless," but we never claimed it was faultless.) No matter, our latest crab creation was still pretty amazing. So amazing, in fact, that by the time we finished eating our crab breakfast tacos we were seeing things. Of course, this may have had something to do with the fact that we watched Plein Soleil last night after our initial crab taco feast, but all of a sudden the Tapatío guy, the guy whose grinning face graces the front of each and every bottle of Tapatío,

separated at birth?: Tapatio guy & Alain Delon fig. f: Alain Delon as Tapatío?

was looking a lot like Alain Delon ca. Le Circle Rouge (if you wiped away the grin, naturally, and replaced it with a French cigarette).


* The Californian recipe is the Crab Louie, obviously. The origins of this classic are heavily debated in certain circles, but no one would dispute that San Francisco is the dish's principal home at this point and has been for the better part of the last century, if not longer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

One more corn recipe

It's a good one, too. Excellent, actually. Very delicate. And very simple, too. The trick is the sieve. It's the sieve step that transforms a simple corn soup into something ethereal. The roasted poblanos are a brilliant touch, too. Poblanos aren't the easiest things to find in Montreal, but there are lovely ones at Birri at Jean-Talon Market right now. Perfect for roasting or stuffing.

Corn Soup With Roasted Poblanos

6 ears of sweet corn (the fresher the better)
4 tbsp sweet butter
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups spring water
1/2 cup cream
2 roasted poblano chiles, peeled and minced

With a sharp knife, remove all the corn kernels from the cobs. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the corn, salt, and finely and freshly ground pepper. Toss the corn in the butter over medium heat. After a few minutes, add the spring water and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally so that the corn does not stick to the bottom. After 15 minutes, remove from the heat and cool slightly; pour in a blender and blend until smooth. Press through a medium-fine sieve to smooth the coarse texture. Add the cream, correct the seasoning, heat until just hot, and garnish with minced poblano chiles.

Serves 6.

[recipe from Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (1982), which is worth having just for the long list of menus with accompanying descriptions that comes at the end of the book. Pay whatever it takes to get your hands on this book, the accounts of the various occasions, guests and guest of honor, and ensuing hijinks are priceless.]


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

children of the corn

corn cocktail fig. a: homemade Esquites

No two summers are exactly alike, of course, but every summer around our household has its two or three full-blown food crazes that help define it. Something comes into season and shows up at the market, and for some reason--either because the quality is higher this time around, or because the variety's better, or because it's just caught you at the right moment--we just keep going to that same thing over and over again because it just feels (and tastes) right. Earlier this summer it was cucumbers. They just tasted amazing to me--better than they had in years (and I'm always a fan)--and I found myself preparing them every which way: in salads, in Asian noodle dishes, in sandwiches, in soups, even in drinks. We're still eating our fair share of cukes, because our plants have been producing like nuts and they still taste great, but, really, who are we kidding? Right now it's all about the corn.

Now, again, we're big fans of Quebec corn every year, but this year was different. This year we absolutely could not wait. A lot of this had to do with a feature on Mexico City's Mercado de la Merced that appeared in the May issue of Saveur. Not surprisingly, given its centrality to Mexican cuisine, corn figured prominently in their overview of la Merced's enormous variety of simple pleasures. Just that one photograph of those cobs of blue corn was enough to make us ravenous. But what really pushed us over the edge was the photograph of some lucky person's hand clutching a cup of Esquites: gently stewed corn with lime juice and chile powder served in a cup and topped with crumbled cheese. From the moment we contemplated making Esquites at home, Quebec's corn season couldn't come fast enough. In fact, Michelle was so focused on making Esquites and making it right that she even bought us an epazote plant at Jean-Talon Market so that we could have plenty on hand when that fateful moment arrived.

As it happens, we were in luck: corn season came relatively early this year, and the corn has been fantastic so far, and cheap too (13 for $5 [or $15 for a bag of 72!] at the market on the weekend, 5 for $1 right now at Supermarché P.A.). Naturally, the first thing we made was Esquites.


6 cups fresh white (or yellow) corn kernels (you'll need roughly 10 ears of corn)
3 tbsp butter
1 stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped serrano chile (you can substitute a jalapeño if serranos are hard to find in your area)
torn leaves from one stalk epazote (optional)
1 cup queso fresco (or some other kind of fresh cheese, like Portuguese Santa Maria, which is readily available in our neighborhood), crumbled
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp chile powder (such as A.J.'s Chile Powder, my own personal blend)
salt to taste
lime wedges for garnish

Combine the corn kernels, the butter, the fresh chile, the epazote, and 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the corn is tender, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside to let the corn and its cooking liquid cool slightly. Add the queso fresco, the lime juice, the chile powder, and the salt and toss well. Divide the corn and the liquid between cups and garnish with a lime wedge.

Serves 6.

[adapted from "La Merced," Mauricio Velázquez de Léon, Saveur, May 2007]

Was it worth the wait? You better believe it. Sweet, spicy, refreshing--we were in heaven. Those four extra portions? We took care of them ourselves.

Our other big corn kick this summer has been grilled corn, appropriately enough, because we've been giving it some Mexican flair and because it turns out the indigenous Mexican root of the word esquites is izquitl, or toasted corn. And, again, we've been grilling corn in some capacity for years now, but it just tastes better this year for some reason. Sometimes we've even had it several days in a row, which isn't something that happens all too often around here.

Grilled Corn

Carefully pull back the husk from 6 ears of corn without detaching them fully. Remove the corn silk. Replace the corn husk so that the kernels are once again hidden from view and tie the leaves in place using a piece of kitchen twine. Soak each ear of corn in water for 5-10 minutes.

Once the ears have soaked for 5-10 minutes, place them on the grill over a low fire. Close the lid and let them cook for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, melt 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low to medium-low heat. Add 2-3 teaspoons of chipotle purée*, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice, and salt to taste and stir.

When the corn has finished cooking on the grill, remove them from the fire, let them cool momentarily, and then pull away the husks and the twine. Put the corn back on the grill and brush liberally with the butter/chipotle/lime juice mixture. Grill the ears of corn for about 5 minutes or so, rolling them around occasionally so that they cook evenly, and allowing them to get just the slighest bit blackened.

grilled corn 1 fig. b: on the grill

Serve immediately, brushing them with a bit more of the butter mixture if your little heart desires.

Serves 6.

grilled corn 2 fig. c: the finished product

I love straight-up boiled corn on the cob slathered with butter just as much as the next guy, but at the moment,there's no turning back.


* Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce puréed in a blender or food processor.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Our favorite Portuguese celebration of the year (and there are a lot of them) is taking place this weekend at Église Santa Cruz (a.k.a. the Church of the Perpetual Party), corner of Rachel and St-Urbain. This particular celebration honors Nossa Senhora do Monte and Madeira more generally, and it features elaborate costumes, dance, and song, but the real attraction for people like us is the food: 3-foot skewers (they look and feel like 4- to 5-foot skewers, though) of beef

skewers, portuguese-style

and a curling stone-sized loaf of bread--bolo do caco--which is cooked on a griddle and then baked on an odd rotating platform. The beef on the skewers comes raw, rolled in rock salt and garlic--it's up to you to take it over to the massive barbecue pit nearby and cook it to your specifications. You then tear off hunks of the bread and use them to pull the freshly cooked meat off the skewer, the better to devour it. Plenty of beer, wine, and pop is also available on premises.

You should be prepared for a mob scene and lengthy waits--especially when it comes to getting a loaf of the bread, because they bake them fresh right there in front of your eyes--but the waits, the small talk, the people-watching, etc., are all part of the fun. Have a drink, enjoy the weather, relax.

Technically, the celebration lasts through Sunday evening, but the popularity of this particular festa is such that it's not uncommon for them to run out of beef early on Sunday. Our recommendation: get there as soon as you can.

Oh, yeah: there's also some low-stakes gambling at the eastern edge of the parking lot that has to be seen to be believed:

gambling, portuguese-style


Thursday, August 09, 2007

AEB Summer Party 1: Croquet!

Not to get all Martha Stewart on you, but may we recommend throwing a summer croquet party while the weather allows?

You're going to have to locate a friend with a croquet set, of course, or shell out for a set of your own, but once that essential element has been taken care of, it's a cinch. Few sports are as elegant and civilized. Few sports--with the exception of darts and maybe horseshoes--are as amenable to boozing it up while you play. Few sports are as wickedly vindictive. And few sports beg for a picnic the way croquet does. Sound like a heap of contradictions? It is. Sound like fun? Gather together the right group of people and it will be.

go, lucas! fig. a: perfect technique (with Pimm's Cup in hand, no less), by Lucas

A few weeks ago now, we teamed up with our friends at Automatic Vaudeville to throw an early afternoon croquet picnic. We added a little spice to the affair by throwing our croquet picnic on la St-Jean and making our official drink the Pimm's Cup (Pimm's No. 1 no longer being available anywhere in Quebec, thanks to our friends at the S.A.Q., we had to smuggle in contraband from Ontario and New York). We toyed with the idea of holding the event somewhere provocative to bump up the spice quotient even more, but ultimately we decided that in the interests of the sport and the picnic we had in mind the genteel confines of Parc Beaubien would do just fine.

Invitations were sent, preparations were made, and when Sunday rolled around we set up shop under the shade of a nice big tree and laid out a classic double diamond on a delightfully hazardous patch of scrubby turf.

Quite a few people turned up all gussied up in their croquet-appropriate attire, and by 12:30 the first of a series of matches that lasted well into the afternoon was underway.

Highlights? There were many, but there's no question that the zinger of the afternoon came from this 8-year-old kid who, mesmerized by "the hardest game [he'd] ever seen," graciously provided us with color commentary for a couple of hours. When one member of our party lost his composure after a particularly horrendous shank that sent him deep into the rough, yelling out an expletive, Junior stepped in and reprimanded him: "That's a bad word. That's the baddest word. Only grandpas and grandmas are allowed to use that word." That put an end to any and all foul-mouthed yobbism in a hurry.

As for the food and drink... We certainly didn't want the picnic to distract from the croquet, so we kept things simple: just some drinks and some sandwiches, and that's all.

The Pimm's Cup is one of the most refreshing drinks we know of. It's perfect for a hot summer day or night and it was perfect with croquet--a lot of the people who turned out hadn't had a Pimm's Cup before that afternoon, but people couldn't get enough of 'em. We brought enough ingredients so that we were able to mix Pimm's Cups for a good-sized crowd all afternoon long and here's how we mixed 'em.

AEB Pimm's Cup

1 part Pimm's No. 1
2 parts sparkling lemonade or ginger ale
ice cubes
1 thin lemon slice
1 thin lime slice
1 thin orange slice
1 strawberry (or raspberry)
1 cucumber spear

Mix the Pimm's and the sparkling lemonade or ginger ale. Add 2-4 ice cubes. Garnish with the lemon, lime, orange, strawberry, and cucumber spear combo. Serve and enjoy. Repeat as needed. Enjoy some more. Play some croquet. Enjoy some more. Make some cat calls from the sidelines. Enjoy some more. Stumble back onto the course and... You get the picture.

tea sandwiches à la AEB fig. b: AEB Cucumber & Watercress Tea Sandwiches ready to be devoured

The sandwiches were inspired by our trip to Vancouver. We came up with the concept a few days before the croquet party, tried it out, and loved the results.

AEB Cucumber & Watercress Tea Sandwiches

2 English (naturally) cucumbers, thinly sliced
1-2 bunches of watercress
2 loaves of quality sandwich bread, thinly sliced, crusts removed
1/2 cup quality mayonnaise
1 tbsp light tamari or light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp prepared horseradish (if you use wasabi, you're going to want to use much less)
2 rounded tsp shichimi togarashi*

Mix the mayonnaise, tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, horseradish, and shichimi togarashi in a small bowl until well blended. (You can use any brand of shichimi togarashi, but we're particularly fond of the brand you see in back here,

shichimi x 2 fig. c: Japanese spice blends from Olives & Épices

which has the finest flavor we've ever encountered in a shichimi blend. You can find it at Olives & Épices at Jean-Talon Market.) Spread a thin layer of this spread on one half of the sandwich and add a thin layer of cucumber and a thin layer of watercress. Sandwich the other piece of bread on top and cut your sandwich on the diagonal.

This recipe will make quite a number of sandwiches. Repeat as needed.

Finally: congratulations to Ms. Claudine Hart on her impressive victory.


* Available from any good Asian specialty foods store, especially Japanese ones.