THE WORLDLY PULLMAN-TORTILLA TACOS
LET’S EAT NOW AND KILL EACH OTHER LATER?
What has this world come to? Or, all along, this is how we always have been?
I know. This is a food blog, rainbows and marshmallows and summer noodle salads. Politics, world affairs… are not palatable, instead, I should be talking about pumpkin pies. But you see, this is the thing. Talking about foods, in a time like this. How can we, so at ease, not taste the irony between the bettering tolerance for flavours on our dining tables, and the boiling hostility on just about everything beyond? Food-wise, in the history of mankind, the world has never come so open-minded, so intimately close to sharing and tasting the very same beliefs that are being enjoyed from the other side of the map. We can all agree on the cold silkiness of a piece of raw fish on a small nub of tangy rice. The cool creaminess of hummus meandering around the sizzling spiced kebabs. The good funk of cheese melting into the chewiness of a hand-torn crusty baguette. A sip of wine. It registers the same. The contentment in common. The smile radiating from our torsos. Ah, yes, that wonder you’re tasting over there, I’m feeling it right here too, understanding, happy-ing, at the same time, over the same things. How is it that we could relate so much in happiness, and yet, empathise so little in suffering. Can we really talk about foods, without thinking about politics? Or is it, let’s eat now and kill each other later?
Really bad things happened in Paris. Here we all mourned, in shock, in disbelief, compassionate. Meanwhile, the exact same really bad things, just as bad, sometimes worse, happens not that far away almost every week on that side, perhaps your side, stacking up silently like morning pancakes. Beirut 3 days ago, Ankara last month, other cities of dwindling lights. But… that was just inks on newspapers, no hashtags in its grief. Has even my sympathy, where I decide to spare it, become part of the problems? Why is it only you and I, yours and mine, and nothing in between? We’re all micros teeming on a speck of dust in this universe, but somehow, we still manage to divide beyond our means, to sever what is better as one, to split the atoms. I don’t. Wanna. Exist like this.
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I came home from a trip last Thursday, before all this, with an idea of making quick tortillas out of pullman-toasts, just a friendly and benign weekday-meal inspiration that I thought you, wherever and whoever you are, might like too. It was meant to be convenient, utilising our pantry items that nowadays without us even noticing, have probably evolved to be much more worldly and exciting ahead of our prejudice. I had two stacks of pullman toasts made in Beijing, but most likely not far apart from what you’ll get from your grocery stores around the world. I had some halal ground beef (most beefs and lambs in Beijing are actually halal) which I then browned with a paste made of Japanese miso paste, Mexican chili powders, Spanish smoked paprika, American sriracha and other good stuffs. Then I made a cool and tangy salsa from diced avocados and Korean kimchi, plus a scallion slaw mixed with mayonnaise from France and gochujang chili paste. It was a true melting pot of edible opinions where, most times, the best things come from.
The flattened and toasted pullman-tortillas were soft, chewy and exceedingly more tortilla-like than I had previously hoped. In fact, I don’t think I would ever go back to buying the “real” but lifeless flour tortillas from the supermarkets that taste like paperboards, over this fake but delicious cheat that are tender and blanket-like. And however unseemly, confused, and chaotic the list of ingredients may sound, each and every tiny little tacos just tasted… well, delicious. It all works, together. Really, try it, because it’s not that difficult. The meaty savouriness that benefits from a hint of soy and chili. The sharpness of the scallions softened by mayonnaise then gets kicked up again with gochujang. The tangy kimchi with the coolness of the avocados. You could even swap it with Israeli hummus, and season the halal beef with curry pastes from Thailand. It will all, be good. Then everything together, hot and cold, high and low… hmmm, I know what you mean.
Then the spiciness, the burning sensation that my brain registers as a sense of pain that comes from the heat of all this… well, I suspect you can feel that, too.
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- 2 large or 3 small shallots, peeled
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 charred and peeled long red chilis, or 1 tbsp srirracha
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 2 tsp Mexican chili powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 12.3 oz (350 grams) ground beef
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 large avocado, finely diced
- 1/3 cup kimchi, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced scallion
- 1 tsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp gochujang/Korean chili paste
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- TO MAKE THE BEEF TOPPING: In a food-processor, pulse shallots, garlics, charred/peeled long red chilis (or sriracha), miso paste, chili powder, smoked paprika, olive oil and toasted sesame oil, until finely ground into a coarse paste. Heat up a skillet over medium-high heat, then cook the paste for a couple min until it starts to caramelised on the sides of the skillet. Add the ground beef, breaking it up a wooden spoon, then add soy sauce (*you may need less soy sauce if you used sriracha instead of chilis*), sugar and ground black pepper. Cook until the beef is nicely browned, then set aside until needed.
- TO MAKE THE TOPPINGS: Mix diced avocado, diced kimchi and toasted sesame oil together, then set aside. Soak the thinly sliced scallions in water for one min remove a bit of the sharpness, then drain really really well. Mix mayonnaise and gochujang together until even, then add the scallions and chili flakes, and mix until evenly coated. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- *TO MAKE THE PULLMAN-TOAST TORTILLA: With a serrated knife, trim off the crusts of the pullman-toasts. Use a rollin-pin to flatten the toasts completely, then cut out disks with a large biscuit-cutter. Roll each disks again until the surface is completely flattened and smooth. The surfaces should almost look dough-like, smooth without much holes and textures. Heat up a stainless steel or iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Toast each pullman-tortilla ON ONE SIDE ONLY for 15~30 seconds until there are even browned marks all over, then set aside on a plate covered with a towel, and repeat with the rest (toasting both sides will make the tortilla too hard).
- Serve the pullman-tortilla with the mix of toppings, and wedges of lime.
LindsayNovember 16, 2015 at 8:05 PM
Mandy, you are a poet. Your words are beautiful, and so achingly true. Please write a book (like a hybrid book-cookbook). Yes to everything in this post. Yes.
JessicaNovember 16, 2015 at 10:00 PM
What a cool way to make a tortilla! And the cultural melange is, as always, inspired :)
I hear you on your thoughts re: our selective sympathizing, the media focus on certain tragedies and not others. Tangentially related: I feel like this happens with other issues too. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Madison Holleran story, but the media picked up her story of student stress and suicide and ran with it, lamenting that such a beautiful and popular girl could’ve been so unhappy. There were multiple other suicides at the same university for similar reasons, many of minority descent, but not as “aesthetically tragic”. While I have the utmost sympathy for all victims of terrorism, depression, etc., the media creates a tier of newsworthy (and attention-worthy) stories, stratifying catastrophes on questionable metrics. I’ll get off my soapbox now, but I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts – we need to raise awareness of the way our media perpetuates biases!
Ursula @ LilVienna.comNovember 16, 2015 at 10:02 PM
The tortillas look so “real”. What a great idea!
Pam (from Va USA)November 16, 2015 at 10:40 PM
I have never left a comment here before, but I wish to thank you today. Thank you for the words that are wise beyond your years… we all do mourn with France, (as an American, I remembered my feelings after 9/11), but you are right to point out that we should also mourn when we learn of civilians harmed in other lands (many of whom are harmed by my country… civilians caught in the crossfire…) You gave me much to ponder today. Thank you.
MelindaNovember 16, 2015 at 10:54 PM
Thanks for this post (and the recipe). I think you’ve really nailed it.
Barbara BöttnerNovember 16, 2015 at 10:55 PM
The problem is that human beings are basically monkeys with a more developed mind. And our reactions and feelings are definitely monkey. No empathy, no conscience, a love of violence (which are the movies we love the most? Which beloved series on the telly is NOT about violence, crime, revenge, lust, hatred?) Selfishness, greed, lust for power, lust for sex as an expression of power. Like monkeys. Only education and love can teach us empathy, consideration and respect for others. When we are raised in a world of poverty, inequality, violence we become violent. What must these men from IS have gone through to end up so filled with hatred, so delighted by murder, so willing to kill themselves in order to kill many others? Why have they become madmen and monsters, why do they hate women, why do they hate the whole world? And who the hell is giving them all the money they need to play out their murderous fantasies?
RobertaNovember 16, 2015 at 11:17 PM
On this side of the world we feel safe, we hear little of the lights dimming in far away unfamiliar places (and familiar ones) but you are right to look into yourself and ask the question–what is this world coming to? My mother (now 93) said, we are the same under the skin, we all have dreams, we all have mothers to weep for us… The earth i today s awash with tears.
HeatherNovember 16, 2015 at 11:44 PM
Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I have also been mourning over this tragedy as well as the selective attention we pay to the Western world. May you be full of love and peace and free of suffering.
EllenNovember 17, 2015 at 1:50 AM
Mandy, thank you very much for your compassion! I live 2 hours from Paris and live in a big city and … we are afraid… very afraid! Where has the world gone to. World war 3 isn’t far away. And yes, food is something to bind us and feel us less empty…because empty we feel!
geraldineNovember 17, 2015 at 5:30 AM
Hi mandy, such a lovely recipe and made me reflect on Yotam Ottolenghi”s ideas that Humus in all its variations might bring peace to the middle east. It was a close call for me, I was in the area, a couple of blocks from several of the attacks, I walked home at 8 in the morning through a desolate Paris, not knowing what to think believe or fathom for the following day. However with a small of 4 who wanted to go on the swings when i got home, life went bizarrely on.
Now to the question, what the hell is pullman toast, is it that doughy shit white bread?
bread snob, Paris hehehe, just pullman your leg!
all the best
mandy@ladyandpupsNovember 17, 2015 at 1:37 PM
Geraldine, I’m so glad to hear that you’re ok. You’re right, that life goings bizarrely on as it tears itself apart simultaneously. But how we choose to carry on defines us.
hahah yes it’s those shitty white breads!! They are better eaten this way though :)
Kara | Sorghum and StarchNovember 17, 2015 at 11:51 AM
Thank you for your beautiful words, and your equally gorgeous recipe.
LaurieNovember 17, 2015 at 3:22 PM
Hmmm -where to start? We are so fortunate to have access to clean water and food. Period.
The other shit that is happening has to do with the same old thing – Power, Religion, Control, Traditions. We hear about it because of the media. Everybody saying Muslims are to blame – Ha! how many people were killed because the Christians believed something at some point in time? So many parts of the world that still want to keep women powerless. Hey, it is their tradition! Is it convenient to forget the history of our world ?- or maybe people are simply ignorant of the past.
I can’t believe how far we have come with the good stuff! Accepting people and their beliefs and their wonderful food.
We need to stop acting with our minds and instead, with our hearts/spirits.
Let’s keep making good things – whether it be food, showing love, helping animals and people. Otherwise, we cannot move forward.
I’ll get off my soapbox now and say that I love your recipe. Thought about using dried cherries because hubby doesn’t like cranberries.
Hope you are doing OK after your recent loss, I’m sure it is a strange time for you. Better days ahead! Sending good thoughts to you – might not mean a thing but I will do it anyway.
ellie | fit for the soulNovember 21, 2015 at 7:56 AM
This is amazing, girl! Omgness I just want to chew on those tortillas, raw, cooked, whatever way you give ’em to me, I’ll have ’em. ^_^
And you took the words out of my mouth when you say that food really brings us into commonality. I love the quote by Tolkien, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Quite truthfully, I’m so tired of these politics that plague our daily lives but it’s the reality of what is happening and of course, social media ain’t helping at times. But my heart breaks and it’s hard to swallow, let alone talk about on a food blog, because of the grievance many are going through. True that it’s always been going on, but things are coming to a strange twist and it ails my heart. I believe in the power of prayer and can’t wait to see the light of God shine through it all–eventually, in the right time. But of course, I want it now!
Anyway, beautifully written, Mandy!
Ps: you should write for commercials because every sentence in this post got me ravenous! LOL
Patty KennyDecember 2, 2015 at 1:43 AM
Beautifully done. I am grateful for your connection to the events of the world.
EboJanuary 5, 2016 at 11:06 PM
Thank you for this.
LourdesAugust 9, 2021 at 5:34 AM
Yes, eat first! Everything else we have no control of!
The Year of Eating Dangerously.
Thank you. We need tacos. We need peace.