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Wandering around Tokyo’s Shinjuku district alone one winter, on a research trip, I found a taco joint. “Of course you found a taco joint,” my wife Rebekah said.“You always do.” I was raised in the Arizona desert, eating tacos, burritos, and enchiladas every week.With the lights off, though, the vacancy felt personal.
But the seed was planted: There was an enormous, untapped economic and cultural opportunity to serve authentic, delicious Mexican food in an enchanting place that had little of it.
There were crazier ideas — not that I was pursuing those either, but it felt good knowing I wasn’t the craziest of the crazy. In the midst of handmade onigiri vendors, donburi chains, and unagi restaurants, why not sell street tacos?
He sent photos of his daughter, and I sent photos of Rebekah and I hiking, walking our dog, and dressed up as Kurt and Courtney Cobain for Halloween. One day I mentioned tacos and sent him a picture of me eating some carne asada. (I know tacobell is not so good one hahahaahaa)” I offered to send him a recipe. Why just visit Japan, I figured, when I could there?
“The whole world must taste them,” I said, dramatically, “just like the whole world must taste 肉じゃが.” “I surprised you use letter of Japanese in your email,” Daisuke said. LOL” Food reminds me of people, and I see reminders all over my city: stylish white-guy ramen restaurants; donburi food carts; inexpensive sushi-go-rounds. It was brash, impractical and never going to happen.
When readers weren’t carrying it around town in their bags or using it in their kitchen, they could display Taco Wagon on their bookshelf with their magazines and novels. I wanted to offer this magazine as a way to share my gratitude with them and to make new friends. Even when we lacked a common language, we would always have food, music, and laughter.
Food, like music, is the great uniter, a universal language that connects all people despite our differences. My other hope was that would inspire some dinner parties.
Rather than leftover space, this was standard Tokyo efficiency. Chain donburi automats like , and an abundance of udon, ramen, and sushi. When I climbed the narrow staircase to the fourth floor, the restaurant was closed. A small cook station overlooked a clutter of wooden tables.
These places filled my belly with succulent novelties and comforting carbs soaked in fat. Cactus drawings decorated the signs amid Japanese characters.
Substitute shishito peppers for jalapeño peppers in pico de gallo.
Use yuzu juice in place of lime, shiso in place of cilantro, adzuki instead of pinto beans. (Do you think iwashi tacos with spicy guacamole would taste good?