TexMex/Southwestern/Mexican foods were something I purchased from the grocery or at restaurants in the US, missed sorely in Japan, and was convinced I couldn’t make it myself. If I found salsa in a jar, I couldn’t find chips, so what was the point? Avocados weren’t something I could get my town easily, and forget cilantro or jalapeños. I gave up on my dream of enjoying these foods in Japan, but luckily Cheruko didn’t, and she put together a fantastic fajita spread for an international cooking lesson.
We (mostly she) translated and adapted a flour tortilla recipe from Homesick Texan. It’s simple, quick, and doesn’t even use lard or shortening! This recipe can be vegan if you use soy milk. I haven’t had the best luck subbing whole-wheat flour, but if you have a good ratio, let me know.
As for the filling, since I moved to the city, I discovered places to purchase cilantro in Ishikawa (even grew some for a while), and avocados became more popular, so now I make tortillas about once a month, usually with homemade guacamole, corn or tomato salsa, and black bean* stir-fry. If anyone is interested in seeing recipes for my ZawaMex, most of which are actually vegan, come to think of it, I’d be happy to share. Some of the ingredients are not always easy to find in small towns in Japan, and I do also have you rural expats in mind. I remember getting so annoyed at the city-dwellers with their fancy grocery-stores and restaurants being genuinely confused that I couldn’t get olives or fresh dill in my town. (Of course, if it were your first time living on your own in Japan and your grocery store had imported goods, why wouldn’t you think that?)
Yield 4 tortillas. Serving size: 1.
Calories per tortilla: 260 (for 2% milk)
Time: 50 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 30 minutes
250 g all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling (komugiko, 小麦粉)
1/2 Tablespoon baking powder (bêkingu paudâ, ベーキングパウダー)
1 teaspoon salt (shio, 塩)
1 teaspoon olive oil (orîbu oiru, オリーブオイル)
180 mL warm milk (gyûnyû, 牛乳) – may use soy milk (tônyû, 豆乳) or low-fat milk (teishibô gyûnyû, 低脂肪牛乳)
Rolling pin (menbo, めん棒)
Surface for rolling: cutting board, clean table, etc.
1. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and oil in a bowl.
2. Heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave until warm (about 38ºC or 100ºF). Slowly add to the flour mixture, stirring until the dough becomes a stiff ball. I usually use all the milk, but you don’t want the dough to get too wet, so take it slowly.
3. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes, shape into a ball, and cover the bowl with cling wrap or a clean dish towel.
4. Let rise for 20 minutes in a space free of drafts.
5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each into a ball. Place on a plate, cover with the same wrap or towel, and let rest for 10 more minutes.
6. Roll out one ball thinly. Heat the dry frying pan a little and cook until the dough puffs up a bit and you have “burn” marks on one side (about 1 minute), then flip to repeat.
7. Place cooked tortillas on a plate under a clean towel until ready to eat. These are best fresh, but you can store them tightly wrapped in the refrigerator if you have leftovers.
*Not the Japanese black soy bean (kuromame, 黒豆) but Western black beans (kuro-ingen, 黒インゲン) from the import store. You can use kuromame for tortillas, but they’re more sweet than savory, and the texture is a bit off.