Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alambres and Pambaz: Not in Baltimore

The alambres at left and pambaz at right are what Robb Walsh, the man who wrote the book---actually two books---on Tex-Mex---chose for the lunch we shared recently in Houston. I 'll refrain from naming the restaurant until Mr. Walsh's review has been published.
While both selections might suggest a direction in which Tex-could be headed, in reality they are prototypical of authentic Mexican fast food at its best as served in working-class eateries in Mexican cities. Despite a sizeable influx of Mexican immigrants to Baltimore in recent years, I'm unaware of comparable fare being served at any local establishments.
Alambres is essentially Mexican shish kabob, meat that's carved from a turning spear as if for gyros. It is served as pictured above, highly seasoned, cooked up with onions and chiles, then topped with lime wedges and cheese. Beans are served on the side.
Pambaz is a kind of torta, or Mexican style sandwich where the bread is dipped in chili before it's toasted. The principal ingredients that filled mine were potato, chorizo, lettuce and cheese.
I would rate these dishes to be the best Mexican (or for that matter Tex-Mex) fast food I've ever tasted in my life. It took a while for the genre to catch on even in Houston. So here in Baltimore, I suspect we'll have to wait quite a while for anything similar, though surely the likes of alambres and pambaz will arrive one day. And when they do, I think our city will be ready.
In addition to his work as food critic for the Houston Press, Robb Walsh has authored the following books:
The Tex-Mex Cookbook: Broadway Books, 2004
Are You Really Going to Eat That? Counterpoint Press, 2003
Legends of Texas Barbecue: Chronicle Books, 2002
A Cowboy in the Kitchen: Co-authored with Grady Spears, Ten Point Press, 1999
Nuevo Tex-Mex: Co-authored with David Garrido, Chronicle Books, 1998
Traveling Jamaica with Knife, Fork, and Spoon: Co-authored with Jay McCarthy, Crossing Press, 1995