In 1983, the owner of the restaurant where she worked, Tokyo Sushi on the West Bank, repeatedly told her “No!” you cannot become a sushi chef. You are a woman. Women cook at home not in sushi restaurants.
Then one day the sushi chef at the restaurant quit and Momo begged to get a crack at the job. The owner relented and now, decades later, Young is one of the top cooks in all of New Orleans.
The grounds of the Satchmo Fest at US Mint remind me of a Texas pasture after a rainstorm. Someone has put down a little straw over the muck but the food court area is sodden, messy and stinky. No matter. One of my scouts has told me that I must try Ajun Cajun, Momo Young’s mobile food kitchen, and I’m not going to let foot-deep mud deter me from her cuisine.As our 500 Po Boys Series winds down we’ll begin issuing some “best of” lists and Ajun Cajun’s soft shell crab sandwich is surely going to rank near the top. It’s profoundly good. A whale-sized crab has been properly battered in tempura then flash fried in good clear oil. Accoutrement are standard: lettuce and tomato but the company’s ‘pink sauce’ takes the dish into the stratosphere of New Orleans best po boys.
I ask the counterman what it is and he allows that’s it’s just a homemade mayo-based sauce. His plain-jane description belies the waves of umami that this condiment delivers. It helps that the crab’s denouement in hot fat has led to parts of the sandwich being crunchy while other sections are pleasingly chewy. In short this is one of the best crab sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in New Orleans (a history that stretches back to the 70s)
In my research studies I couldn’t find a lot of intel on Momo Young but I did locate a few old videos on Youtube. New Orleans first female sushi chef is a charmer and clearly passionate about food. In one, she briefly speaks on her landmark sauce saying “I don’t know why we call it pink sauce it’s not even pink”
No matter. Young’s full-flavored take on a Louisiana swamp classic has me champing at the bit to get at more of her food. I’m hopeful that Ajun Cajun will open a brick and mortar Cajun hotplate joint in the 9th Ward.
I’ll be a regular.