Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/07/kapsalon_quesadillas/

Post-pub nosh deathmatch: Kapsalon v quesadillas

We who are about to dine salute you

By Lester Haines

Posted in SPB, 7th October 2011 12:44 GMT

Our piece a couple of months back on the comparative merits of parmo and poutine proved pretty popular with the gourmets among you looking for something new to wrap your laughing gear round after a robust night on the sauce.

We're delighted, then, to offer another post-pub nosh deathmatch for your consideration, viz: kapsalon versus quesadillas.

This time around, we've shifted our culinary emphasis from Middlesbrough and Canada to Mexico and Holland.

Our new contenders have a couple of things in common: they're both easy and cheesy. In the case of quesadillas, the name's a bit of a giveaway regarding the cheese content of the dish, although kapsalon ("hair salon") doesn't really offer much clue as to what delights await the wobbly connoisseur of heart-busting late-night troughs.

To clarify, quesadilla is uninspiringly described in the dictionary as a "filled fried tortilla" whose name derives from queso (cheese).

Kapsalon owes its improbable moniker to a Rotterdam-based Cape Verdean hairdresser called Nathaniel Gomes, who asked his local kebab shop to knock up an unholy mix of chips, shawarma meat and gouda.

Other customers quickly warmed to the idea, but since the delicacy had no name, Gomes suggested they order a "kapsalon", and the rest is history.

That's the story, anyway, according to local lore, but what we want to know is just why the kapsalon has proved such a big hit with the Dutch, and indeed how it measures up to the quesadilla after a skinful of ale.

So, let's get down to it. For this deathmatch, we requisitioned the kitchen of Begoña and Juanjo, owners of Bar Almanzor, in my local town of El Barco de Avila, as well as corralling a few of their customers as tasters.

First up, we got stuck into the quesadilla. The dish can be summarised thus: corn tortillas + cheese + just about anything. The anything in this case was advocado and some black olives – the latter a concession to Spanish palates.

Here's our traditional cut-out-and-keep guide to how to make a quesadilla, using mozzarella cheese in this case:

Your cut-out-and-keep guide to preparing a quesadilla

Simple as that. Try throwing in some shredded chicken breast or chopped spring onion as an alternative filling, or in fact pretty well whatever you happen to have languishing in the fridge.

In contrast, there isn't much ingredient flexibility with the classic kapsalon. You'll need some chips, kebab meat, gouda cheese, garlic sauce and a bit of lettuce.

Kebab outlets are a bit thin on the ground around here, so I'm obliged to the lads down at the Ateshgah ("Fire Temple", in case you were wondering) restaurant in Avila for agreeing to fill me a tray with meat hewn from their rotating kebab animal.

Here's how to concoct kapsalon:

How to make kapsalon: your step-by-step guide

You then just chuck on a bit more garlic sauce and you're ready to roll. Naturally, you'll need some assistance in moving your nourishment from the kitchen to the eating area (normally the sofa, in a domestic scenario), and in our case we volunteered the bar owners' son – Andrés – to do the honours:

Our waiter Andres bearing a quesadilla and a portion of kapsalon

Note the loving attention to detail, with the quesadillas sliced pizza-style and garnished with a chilli sauce. The kapsalon, meanwhile, looks deceptively harmless with its topping of lettuce and sauce:

Quesadilla and kapsalon ready to enjoy

Well, the proof of the pudding and all that, so the moment had arrived for the locals to get stuck in. It's fair to say the Spanish are pretty conservative when it comes to food, and in this snap it looks like bar owner, Juanjo (centre), is trying to work out a way to make a run for it while my back is turned:

Locals prepare to tuck in

In the end, though, I needn't have worried. In about 10 minutes, four trays of kapsalon had been consigned to history, along with three plates of quesadillas – all washed down with beer, naturally.

Customers at the Almanzor get stuck in

And the verdict? The jury ruled quesadillas "a great snack", but just not substantial enough for post-pub beer-soaking duties. Kapsalon, on the other hand, proved a huge hit.

I must confess I had my own doubts, but it's fair to say kapsalon is a real contender to dethrone the traditional Brit doner. The chip/cheese/kebab meat combo should satisfy the most urgent demands for nourishment in bulk, while the lettuce provides the vital illusion that you're not hitting your heart hard with a greasy hammer. ®

Bootnote

Got any suggestions for future post-pub deathmatches? Let us know.