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Taco Tales

July 31, 2010

i like you.

My friend Mark posted a Facebook update the other day about eating delicious duck tacos in Millenium Park in Chicago. In the comment thread, we talked about making some sometime soon.

Then I did a bad friend thing to my good friend and decided to make them without him just this once, for some crazy duck-loving crazies who are coming through town tonight. But this is a trial run, Mark. A trial run, and you’ll see why:

They are underway but thus far, I have done a lot of things one shouldn’t do while cooking.

1. I read a recipe only once before shopping, and therefore didn’t get a lot of the stuff on the list. Well, actually, I got MOST of the stuff on the list, with the exception of tamarind sauce, which, what the hell is that anyway, and where am I supposed to get it.

2. I didn’t confit my own duck. Therefore, I bought 3 ALREADY CONFIT’D duck legs at, cover your eyes, $999 a pop. Sorry, I meant $9.99. Same diff. They say that they weigh 5 oz. each, but some 5 oz. ones are heavier than others, so I compared them all and chose those. Then, I tried my damnedest to distract Matthew while the food was being rung up, since only idiots spend $9.99 on a five ounce thing, much of which is skin and bones.

3. When I did reread the recipe and realize I’d need tamarind sauce, I thought: easy. Tacos are Mexican food, and tamarind is Mexican, witness tamarind soda, and so I can probably get tamarind sauce at a Mexican deli.

Uh, no. Just as confit is French which is not Asian, tamarind sauce is something sold at “Asian Grocery Stores,” according to this recipe. Oh, Emeril. Enough of this fusion crap. While I live amongst many Mexicans and get to buy their fresh delicious cheeses and can always find tomatillos, there aren’t any Asian supermarkets around, except for one, and that is a very small deli which does not carry tamarind sauce. I checked this morning.

4. A new and fancy Philippino-inspired style place opened in my happenin’ hood recently. It’s where you can get MANGOSTEEN JUICE, people. The restaurant is very delicious and pretty, and it’s called Purple Yam. Please note how The New York Times and I both endorse it.

I looked at the menu in the window. “Lumpia” is a dish they serve that is really delicious, and they are frequently out of it when I go. What do they serve it with, you ask? Peanut and tamarind sauce.

Once in college, we needed limes and didn’t have any, so I stopped at the local bar, where I knew they had limes, and asked to buy some. They let me, and this may have set a bad precedent.

I walked by 4 times before I could get up the courage to go in. The executive chef and owner, who is a very gentlemanly man, was sitting the front, and I sort of needed to avoid asking the actual chef and owner. I was hoping for a hostess who would perhaps laugh at me and turn me away, but at least I would have asked.

Walking by for the third time, I thought: Barbecue sauce! That would be a good sub, because: tangy, sweet, and saucy. I could either make my own, or enhance some bottled barbecue sauce! And that would be delicious with duck confit tacos, especially if it’s the sort with orange juice in it. But no. I finally decided to ask.

Hi. Uh, I am making something and it requires tamarind sauce — but — I thought it was Mexican but it’s not — long story short could I ask to buy 1/2 cup of YOUR tamarind sauce?

This is not a proper request, you see. I know this because I checked with a friend who owns a restaurant on the walk home, I called her right up, and her reaction indicated that I will never do this again. This is not as easy as selling someone limes, of course. However: he was extremely indulgent and kind and unegotistical. He checked to see if they had enough of his delicious chef-made tamarind sauce to sell me. He did. What a guy. If you are in the Brooklyn or greater NYC area, you’d do well to eat at Purple Yam, and try the Korean sliders on purple yam bread, and the Soju cocktail with HOMEMADE COCONUT ICE CREAM in it.

And if you make these tacos, do not bother him. That is not the lesson, here.

Thanks to Gastev on Flickr for creative commons use of this amazing photo.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2010 6:50 pm

    I loved this. I’d never have had the imagination or the nerve to get tamarind sauce that way. Kudos. While I was in NY last week, we got take out from the Purple Yam. Good stuff.

  2. August 4, 2010 11:36 am

    I might have to make a pilgrimage to the Purple Yam…

  3. Karen permalink
    August 6, 2010 1:31 pm

    That guy is so sweet. Mia has been a total pill in that restaurant and he just smiled at her- which stunned her into better (not to say good!) behavior. I’m glad he was so gracious- I might have done that, being clueless on restaurant etiquette…

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