I’ve got one heck of a post for ya! It’s Taco Time.
If you’ve been following my blog, you already know how much I love Mexican food. I basically live on tacos. If you come to my apartment, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be offered my strange vegan taco creations. I’ve always found that Mexican cuisine lends itself extraordinarily well to vegetarianism even if Mexicans themselves tend to love their meat. When I was in Mexico, it was so easy for me to get a veggie torta with freshly grilled veggies, or grilled nopales (cactus). Even the fast food stands had little treats like mushroom gorditas (corn flour dumplings). And let’s not forget about limitless salsa, guacamole and fresh tortillas.
Spanish 101 for vegetarians:
Hola, mi nobre es Melodia, yo soy Canadiense. Yo no como carne, ni pollo, ni pescado. ¿Hay carne en mi plato? Necesito una comida vegetariana, por favour. Gracias!
And if you are vegan:
No como queso, ni creama. At which point they will ask you to leave Mexico, haha.
Any spanish speakers, please feel free to correct it my Spanish in the comment box below. I am going on memory here. If you are like me, you’ll speak it better con dos cervezas!
So onwards and upwards to doing Tacos the Melo way – a la vegan with all the fixin’s & fillin’s
First, let’s define taco:
According to wikipedia, a taco (//) is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef, pork, chicken, seafood,vegetables and cheese, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils and is often accompanied by garnishes such as salsa, avocado or guacamole, cilantro,tomatoes, minced meat, onions and lettuce.
Many people still think tacos are the hard shell chips popularized by the old el paso brand and taco bell. To them I say: no no no! A taco shell is just a small tortilla which you can deep fry to make into a hard shell. You can buy corn or flour; both are tasty but I tend to go for corn. Corn also lends itself better to being deep fried. If you like crunchy tacos, try baking them by folding them over your oven rack, it’s significantly healthier. If you want soft shell tacos (my preferred choice) warm them so they soften, just be careful not to dry them out. When I’m in a rush I sandwich about 6-10 tortillas between two plates and microwave them for a 30 seconds, flip them, and back for another 30 seconds. This method must be adjusted based on your microwave strength.
Stock those cupboards with some key ingredients:
Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce:
Go out and buy these now, like right now! It doesn’t have to be La Costena brand but it does have to be chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. You can find them in almost any ethnic or asian market type store. They are hot and very tasty, they add spunk to any dish.
Fresh or canned, you’ll need these babies for your homemade salsa verde. Pick them up at Olive Branch or search for them at your neighbourhood ethnic market.
Cactus is so yummy. It’s a little slimy which means you may not love it right away but it’s worth trying. I’m not sure where to buy fresh cactus in Montreal so I always buy the canned version. They are slightly pickled because of the brine so it makes a nice sour addition to your tacos or you can add it to a side salad.
Raw cashew nuts:
You’ll be using these to make a cashew cream which will replace the sour cream components and add a fatty, milky toping to your tacos.
Available at many heath food stores in Montreal.
Okay, I like to make everything from scratch but this brand of vegan sausage is damn good! If you are against pre-packaged foods then you can make your own vegan sausage/chorizo from home. A home-made vegan sausage post awaits, I’m still perfecting the recipe. Either way vegan chorizo will add something a little more texturized to your vegan taco night.
Available at almost any heath food store in Montreal.
I used hemp in my kale-mushroom taco filling for a nutty aroma and an added kick of protein.
5. Vegan cheese ( and/or real cheese, if you please).
I actually bough Daiya vegan cheese and I hated it -I found it barf worthy. There are plenty of vegans who swear by it but I honestly could not deal with the taste. If you want to explore vegan cheese try Bryd fauxmages, a local vegan cheese maker. It was by far the best vegan cheese I’ve had. I’m not a full vegan so I will add real cheese on occasion or I’ll just go without it altogether – it depends. The cashew cream and avocados give you lots of fat which replace the fat from your cheese so it’s not totally necessary to have a cheese replacement. I wouldn’t count out Daiya altogether since there are plenty of people who eat it. Try things out and see how they feel. I like to experiment.
6. Fresh toppings
- Chopped cilantro
- Diced tomatoes
- Sliced green onions
- Lime wedges
- Sliced lettuce
7. Store-bought salsas and hot sauces, why not?
La Costena chipotle pepper sauce, I can’t live with out it! Valentina is a close second.
See recipe here.
4. Cactus sautéed with red onions:
- 1 cup canned nopales
- 1/4 cup red onions, chopped
- 1.5 tbsp sunflower oil
- Heat oil on medium.
- Add red onion, sauté for a few minutes until soft and slightly translucent.
- Add nopales, saute for 3 – 5 minutes.
Tip: If you are not fond of the slimy residue of the nopales, rinse them under cold water before preparing this recipe.
5. Refried Beans
Not totally sure if refried beans count as a fixin’ or a fillin’ but they are hardy enough that you can use it them as both. You can of course buy your refried beans in a can or make them from scratch.
- Half an onion, chopped.
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped, seeds removed.
- 1 can pinto beans or equivalent (about 400g) cooked pinto beans.
- Sauté onion over medium heat until translucent.
- Add chipotle peppers, sauté for 1 minute.
- Mix in the pinto beans, make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- With a potato masher, mash up your beans over the stove.
Tip: If your bean mixture becomes a little too dry, add a touch of water and oil. This is usually only an issue with cook beans as canned beans tend to be fairly moist.
5. Sweet Potato puree.
If you live in Montreal, you may have tasted the very yummy burritoville tacos with sweet potatoes. Who thought sweet potatoes would make such a yummy taco filling?
- 1 large sweet potato
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
Peel and cut sweet potato into 2-inch chunks.
In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil; cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain; puree in food processor, or mash with potato masher, if desired; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.
TACO COMBO VARIATIONS:
COMBO 1 :
GARLIC MUSHROOM KALE +
CASHEW CREAM +
CHIPOTLE SAUCE and/or RED SALSA
REFRIED BEANS +
SWEET POTATO +
SMOKEY BELL PEPPERS +
BBQ TOFU +
Most importantly, tacos are a great thing to share with friends and family. So make all your fillin’s and fixin’s and have everyone make their own.