Mexican and Japanese food sounded pretty good to me last weekend, and we have neither a Mexican nor Japanese establishment in my town, so I busied myself in the kitchen and started chopping up a storm. It turns out that Mexican-Japanese should be a “thing” if it’s not already a “thing.” Both cuisines use a lot of avocados, and I think we can all get behind that! *jumping slo-mo high five!*
Food Pairings for Health
Citrus & Kale: Citrus contains high amounts of vitamin C, a nutrient that helps to absorb the high amounts of iron found in kale. A squeeze of lemon is all you need. If you don't like citrus, try red bell pepper for the same effect.
Turmeric & Black Pepper: Black pepper increases the bioavailability of turmeric, to help you access its full anti-inflammatory benefits. I learned about this pairing when I worked for a supplement company and conducted research on their formulations. So, if you take a curcumin/turmeric supplement, look for one with black pepper extract. I simply crack some black pepper on the food I've added turmeric or curry powder to.
Green Tea & Lemon: Lemon helps to preserve the antioxidants found in green tea, keeping them stable during the digestive process. I don't drink green tea, so I'm not sure how this would taste. Let me know if you've tried it!
Broccoli & Mustard: Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, are rich in cancer-fighting sulforaphane; however, cooking them destroys the enzyme myrosinase, which is needed to convert sulforaphane to its active form. Pairing these with a source of myrosinase, such as mustard, wasabi, or radishes, will help your body access the cancer-fighting sulforaphane.
Whole Grains & Onions: Onions are rich in sulfur-containing compounds, which may help to increase the zinc and iron found in most whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and millet.
Tomatoes & Olive Oil: Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, is fat-soluble. Pairing tomatoes with a source of healthy fat, such as olive oil or avocado, helps to absorb this fat-soluble nutrient. Other foods that are healthier when eaten with a source of fat include carrots, squash, papaya, and dark leafy greens (kale, swiss chard, etc.).
I’m really unsure if Mexican cuisine helps to enhance the health properties of Japanese cuisine (and vice versa), but I’d like to think so. I'll have a go at it: the vitamin C-rich mango, will aid in the absorption of iron from the beans; the healthy fats from the avocado will enable you to better absorb the lycopene from the tomatoes; the onions will help you better access the iron and zinc found in the brown rice wraps; and the wasabi will encourage the uptake of the cancer-fighting sulforaphane found in the cabbage. Ta da!
A little note on the names: Mexican food isn't as popular in Canada as it is in the US, so I'm not well-versed in the correct naming of condiments. I really don't know what "crema" is, so if this isn't "crema," I totally apologize. Also, I don't even know if you would call these soft tacos. I'm no authority on Mexican or Japanese food, only an enthusiast! Whatever you call the marriage of these two cuisines, it's a match made in taco heaven -which is real, I hope.
Miso Mango Soft Tacos (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
3 cups cooked beans of choice (I used black eyed peas)
1 tbsp sesame seeds, to garnish
3 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 pkg brown rice tortillas (gluten-free) or sprouted grain tortillas (I love Food for Life brand)
Mango Sesame Salsa (see recipe below)
Miso Avocado Crema (see recipe below)
To assemble the wraps: Spread the miso avocado crema in a line on the bottom of the wraps. Add ½ cup beans to each wrap, followed by ¼ cup of the mango salsa, ½ cup shredded cabbage, and sprinkle of sesame seeds. Fold up and eat immediately.
Mango Sesame Salsa
1 mango, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (unseeded is fine, it will just be juicier)
Juice of ½ small lemon or lime
¼ cup chopped fresh mint or cilantro
1 tbsp gluten-free low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Chili flakes, to taste (¼ tsp for mild)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use. Can be made up to one day ahead.
Miso Avocado Crema
2 small avocados, pit removed and flesh scooped out
½ cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice or lime juice
1 tbsp mellow white miso
1/2 tsp wasabi powder (optional if you don't have it/like it)
small pinch sea salt
Add all ingredients to a blender or mini food processor. Purée until smooth. Transfer to bowl, cover, and chill until ready to use, preferably within an hour or two. You can also mash this by hand with a fork, just skip the water –it will be a thicker guacamole-style condiment this way.