Making Green Chile Shrimp Tempura at Santa Fe’s First Japanese Restaurant — Cooking in America
(brass band music) – So we’re checking out Shohko Cafe and this is like the first Japanese restaurant in all of New Mexico. It’s this Japanese hippie family that lived in a van in California and decided to make Santa Fe their home. And what they wanted to do was share a little bit of their food with the people of New Mexico. (brass band music) Hello!
– Hi, I’m Ayame Fukuda! – Hi Ayame!
– Hi Sheldon nice to meet you. This is my mother and father’s restaurant, they opened it in 1975. And my mother’s name is Shohko. It’s called Shohko Cafe. The building is an
original adobe building, built around 200 years ago and this is a really old,
former bordello, actually. – [Sheldon] I heard there’s
a green chile tempura that is amazing. – Green chile tempura
is, as far as we know, an invention being made by
my mother in the early 70s. – We’ll be rolling up some sushi too. – Yeah, that’ll be fun. We had a neighbor, Margaret Zamora, when we lived in Albuquerque
for about six months and Margaret would teach my mother northern New Mexican cooking. She was showing her how
to make a chile relleno, and she’s like, “Oh, that process
is so similar to tempura!” She decided to try the green
chile with the tempura. This is Sheldon, Chef Sheldon. – Hi, nice to meet you man. – And Jesus is our tempura chef today. – [Sheldon] We’re gonna slice it through, and we’re gonna just do
traditional style tempura. – [Ayame] He’s dipping the
green chile into the batter. (hip hop music) – I love it, look at that,
the batter is perfect. Sometimes the tempura
batter gets too, too heavy so it’s just clunky and it just falls. You want all of these
ribbons to come off of it so that it’s light and crispy. To this day, your mom
is still in the kitchen, cooking around?
– [Ayame] Yep, everyday. She’s the hardest working one here. – Was your mom trained? – She was trained by Isao Kosaka, this Japanese chef with French training. We sent him to Japan to learn everything, and he came back and he taught my mom. So, now it’s your turn to make shrimp stuffed green chile tempura for us. – [Sheldon] Okay. So we stretch out the shrimp, and then it gets stuffed in like that. – [Ayame] That’s like stuffing cheese when making chile relleno.
– [Sheldon] Yeah, yeah. – [Ayame] So you’re gonna
dip it in the batter nice and light. You’re gonna glide it in. – [Sheldon] How did people react to Japanese food here in New Mexico at first? – Well, they embraced our food, but they also didn’t know
what it was, you know? – Yeah, yeah, yeah. A lot of people would come
in asking for chow mein and egg foo young and that kind of thing. And then we integrated them
into our very early menu. – Kind of ease everyone into it. – Exactly. – And then now it’s totally Japanese. – Absolutely. Completely Japanese. (jazz funk guitar) (laughing) – Grandma. – Plate it up like that
the next time, again. – Yeah. (laughing) – [Ayame] This is our chef Victor. – So Victor, how long
have you been at Shohko? – 11 years. – You’re from Guatemala. – Yeah, I’m from Guatemala. – How long ago did you come to New Mexico? – 12 years. – 12 years ago? Why Santa Fe? – Santa Fe is like small city, people here like friendly, and I have some family
here too before I came. – His brother Felix worked
here as a sushi chef also. When my father opened his ramen restaurant Naruto in Albuquerque, he
took Felix with him. (laughs) – Okay. – They used to stand here side-by-side. – Wow that’s amazing to see that. How was it training under Shohko? She was strict? – Yeah. – [Ayame] She says, “Looks
beautiful, tastes good.” Victor invented his famous Victor Roll. – [Sheldon] So we got some fresh scallops. – [Ayame] The searing brings
out all the oil to the surface. Wonderful flavors and umami. This is pickled burdock root. – [Victor] The cucumber, avocado, the bigeye tuna. – [Sheldon] Bigeye. (hip hop music) – [Ayame] Avocado and
then the seared scallop. So he’s using two types of tobiko, squid ink, and then wasabi infused. – There’s a lot of great
texture going on in this roll. – [Ayame] Oh yeah. (hip hop music) – The first sushi restaurant
opened in 1970 in California. – Uh-huh. – And you guys opened up in ’75. – ’75. – So you guys were in the first wave of people knowing about sushi here. – I’m pretty amazed myself, I’m not sure how it worked out. – [Ayame] Mm-hmm. Mmm. – That’s delicious. The best part is the masago. – I know, that crunchiness in there. – Popping in your teeth.
– Yeah. – We’re in a landlocked state, where’d you guys get fish from? – So when we first opened in ’75, you couldn’t get any fish in Santa Fe. We would contact fish vendors from LA, and we would have to put in an order the week before or whatever. And then have the fish flown in. We would have to go pick
it up at the airport. So every week my mom would
sort of survey her customers, Tuna? What do you want, yellowtail, do you want to have octopus? And that would help her decide what fish to order for the next week. – I love how light it is, and you can literally like… (crunching) (Ayame laughing) Hear the crispiness of it. – Oh yeah, I see. We have three different
kinds of dipping sauces, so that’s the traditional
bonito dipping broth. The idea is to balance the oiliness of the tempura with the sauces. – It’s funny that you say the oiliness, but this is one of the lightest
tempuras I’ve ever had. – Oh wow, that’s cool! So before we lived in Santa Fe, we lived like nomads all across the west coast. We lived in a van pretty much. In a van (laughs). So my parents were really
unconventional Japanese people. (laughing) They met in art school in Tokyo. They didn’t feel that they fit
into normal Japanese culture. And my mom was a painter,
my dad was a creative, graphic thinker and head photographer for The World Macrobiotic Foundation Magazine. And there was a contest sponsored
by a big magazine in Japan and he won (laughs).
– [Sheldon] Wow. – Yeah. They would pay for him to
go anywhere in the world to take pictures. This is the mid-60s. – The hippies and civil rights movement. So he went to LA and San
Francisco and Berkeley. – Oh, right in the mix of it. – Yeah, yeah. Even though they were like hippies and kind of radical in their thinking in terms of getting away from Japan. When they got here, it’s all they had. They didn’t have other Japanese people to have a community with. So I feel like they became more Japanese raising us here in Santa Fe. And so at home, we pretty much… It was all Japanese macrobiotic food. Western American hippies totally were attracted
to this way of thinking. And they were like, “Oh my god,
Hiro and Shohko from Japan! Teach us what is Japanese food, teach us about Japanese culture.” – So from there they decided
that they’d open a new location into a restaurant.
– Into a restaurant. – The green chile and
shrimp works well together. Your Santa Fe roll. I love how the freshness of the green chile still comes through. You know, creamy against that
crispiness of the tempura. – By the time we were in New Mexico, I was about five. My sisters were three and one. You know we were in the van, we didn’t really have a
home and anyplace was home. Take a bath in the river, and then move on to the next place. We’d go to communes. I hadn’t had any formal
training in school, and I wasn’t reading books. My language level was
not up to par at the age. So my parents were like, “Poor Ayame, we need to get her into school.” And we ended up settling here. – What’s recent times here in Santa Fe? There seems to be really,
really artsy downtown. – I think the Georgia O’Keeffe and Santa Fe arts movement
attracted a lot of people from the east coast and the
west coast to come here. There’s an upside to it and
a downside to it, you know? Economically it’s hard for the people who have been here
for a really long time to fit in and own property as the newcomers are coming in and raising the property prices. So that’s kind of one of our big issues. I have amazing legacy here
with my family to carry forward and we want to invite
everyone to enjoy it. And how do you get people to do that? You know, you wanna, “Hey well try this it’s
got green chile in it.” And integration of different cultures. I think that that’s been a key to why people love it here so much. (ragtime music) – What signifies Santa
Fe New Mexican cuisine?