Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
Seiko Riley has been a familiar face in Alpine for many years. As a gifted organic farmer and Japanese chef selling her goods at Alpine Farmers Market, and as an award-winning researcher at Big Bend Regional Hospital, as well as an artist, she’s well-known among locals.
My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting her last weekend when we enjoyed a late lunch at her food truck, FishCat Café. An Airstream trailer converted to a kitchen, FishCat is nestled next to the Bottle House B&B on Historic Murphy Street in Alpine.
Seiko’s local fame began with her outstanding organic produce that she grew and sold at the Alpine Farmers Market along with her prepared Japanese food. When she got word that the Airstream that was already converted to a food truck was available, she jumped at the opportunity.
FishCat Café has been open since February of this year, serving fresh, home-style Japanese cuisine using locally-sourced organic produce.
If Seiko didn’t grow it herself, she uses produce from her super-secret-not-telling-you-who-it-is local organic source. The menu is different each week, as Seiko likes to serve her current favorite meals. She also offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Fresh chicken and duck eggs are available for purchase as well.
I overheard a table of young ladies visiting from San Antonio that had been at Big Bend Brewing Co. and asked where they could get vegan and vegetarian food, and they were sent to FishCat. One of the girls proclaimed, “This trip has been magical – but this food makes it even more amazing!”
For me, the thought of Japanese food conjures the images of tempura (lightly battered and fried) seafood and veggies, and sushi… all of which I enjoy. I didn’t really have any idea what we were in store for at FishCat Café, but heard a few rave reviews from friends in Fort Davis and decided it was time to check it out.
While the menu changes each week, you’ll always find the local favorite available – Sesame Noodles. Our first time to check it out, we ordered Yakitori Chicken (Japanese-style teriyaki skewers over an organic greens salad),
Sautéed Shrimp (with Miso Sake Beurre Blanc – this is a lovely sauce) over a bed of organic greens salad,
and an order of Vegetable Eggrolls with spicy Ponzu sauce, also served on a bed of those perfect organic greens.
The presentation was beautiful – our dishes were so pretty and colorful. The flavors were extraordinary and unlike any Japanese food I’ve ever eaten. I suppose that’s because it was prepared by someone with an artistic flair mixed with an understanding of healthy food and a true love for home-style Japanese food.
I’ve also heard rumors of savory duck burritos and the tastiest Japanese-fried chicken ever eaten. I plan on having Sesame Noodles next time we visit.
Open Saturday and Sunday from noon until dark (unless she sells out of food before dark – which happens), you can find Japanese cuisine in Alpine in the vintage 1970s Airstream on Historic Murphy Street (behind the Amtrak Station).
Sesame Noodle Salad
(Not authentic Japanese like Seiko would make but still tasty)
1 (16 ounce) package angel hair pasta
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon hot chili oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, or more if desired
1 green onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the angel hair pasta, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink.
Whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, chili oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Toss the pasta in the dressing, then sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onion, and bell pepper. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate for a cold salad.