A Rabbi Walked Into a Mexican Kitchen—and This Unique Restaurant Was Born
Before the neighborhoods of Los Angeles’ Eastside neighborhood became heavily Latino, the city’s Jewish community lived there. Although that demographic shift happened decades ago, chef Katsuji Tanabe has created a restaurant with cuisine inspired by both cultures—authentic Mexican flavors made according to Jewish dietary laws. Located in what’s currently a Jewish neighborhood, the restaurant, Mexikosher, is bringing tacos, burritos, and more to the kosher community for the first time.
“I opened the first kosher Mexican, so there was nothing before that—there was no point of reference,” he says in this second episode of Served.
Because Tanabe isn’t Jewish, he shares the kitchen with an important full-time staff member, Rabbi Hershel Rabbs. Under Rabbs’ watch, the vegetables are carefully washed, with any and all insects removed, and the supply of kosher meat is closely monitored.
Does all of the effort that goes into reimagining pork-loving Mexican food for a kosher clientele pay off? The customers think so.
“People, they come in here and they see that the food is authentic and it’s kosher,” says one young man, “and that acts as a bridge to allow them to take a glimpse into a world that they might have never thought they would look into before.”
If that means swapping out salmon for pork in pozole, so be it.
For the sauce:
4 guajillo peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the pozole:
1 clove garlic, sliced
12-ounce can hominy, drained
1 cactus (nopal) paddle, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh epazote
2 five-ounce wild salmon fillets
1 radish, sliced
Half a lime
Extra-virgin olive oil
Make the sauce: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Roast the peppers in the oven for 10 minutes and then soak in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserve the soaking water, and then puree the peppers with the garlic and spices. Mix in enough of the soaking water to give the sauce a soup-like consistency.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the sauce over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.
Make the pozole: In a frying pan, sauté the garlic in olive oil over a medium flame until golden brown. Add the hominy and the reserved guajillo sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the cactus in another frying pan, sautéing in olive oil over high heat until just tender. Add in the epazote and cook until just wilted. Set aside.
Wipe out the pan and then cook the salmon, heavily seasoned with only salt, until medium rare.
Serve the salmon on top of the hominy and garnish with the cactus, sliced radish, a squirt of lime, and a drizzle of olive oil.