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Not Vegetarian Tacos: Taco de Vegetales

Taco de vegetales at Taco Station
Taco de vegetales at Taco Station
D. Gonzalez

One of the biggest myths about Mexican food is that it's too meat-centric. As many Mexican food restaurants--both upscale and casual--are adding vegetable-based entrees to their menus, because these items are tagged as vegetarian, some non-vegetarian diners look at them with suspicion. Vegetarian tacos are often considered tacos just for vegetarians, inauthentic, or a sacrifice of "real" Mexican flavors. So to those wondering if a vegetarian taco can ever taste as good as "the real thing," we say, yes. Especially when it is a taco de vegetales.

Lecturer of indigenous Mexican gastronomy Claudia Serrato told us that, along with overlooking the vegetables and legumes in the well-known staples of Mexican cuisine like tortillas and salsas, many people are unaware of the culinary traditions that feature the use of greens, nuts and squashes to make soups, tamales and taco fillings. Serrato estimates that the indigenous Mexican diet was up to 80% plant based, and that influence has made its appearance in the dishes found in Mexican households and restaurants that highlight their tacos de vegetales like Taco Station, Tacomiendo and the Border Grill Truck.

When setting up the menu of his three-month old Taco Station, chef-owner Ulises Medrano wanted to offer different varies of tacos than those at nearby restaurants. He added a version of taco de vegetales which features cauliflower cooked with tomatoes. The taco is composed with a handmade tortilla subtly charred by the griddle and a dollop of mostly avocado guacamole.

Potato Rajas Taco from the Border Grill Truck
Potato Rajas Taco from the Border Grill Truck
D. Gonzalez

Border Grill's menu has always included a few innovative tacos, so their move into the gourmet truck scene was a natural fit. Almost a year after the Border Grill Truck's debut, a second truck was recently added so it will be easier to chase down their potato rajas taco. Made with sautéed cubes of Yukon Golds, it isn't like the more common mashed potato type taco. Instead, the potatoes hold their shape so they can stand up to the creamy chile-studded sauce. The pickled onion topping breaks the condiment barrier by becoming an essential ingredient to cut through the cream and the starch, leaving you to enjoy the taco's lingering buzzy heat.

Veggie Tacos at Tacomiendo
Veggie Tacos at Tacomiendo
D. Gonzalez

Too often we've ordered vegetarian tacos and received a heap of soggy vegetables, which causes the tortilla to fall apart and mostly ruins the entire taco eating experience. With its veggie taco, Tacomiendo has created a feat of taco architecture. The foundation is its sturdy freshly-made tortilla, with the added insulation of melted cheese. Then a stewy combination of beans and vegetables is added with a little bit of rice to give it footing. Add the multiple toppings, and what you are presented with is a taco that is hearty as any with meat fillings. Like the other tacos mentioned, there is no sense of sacrifice in flavor. And absolutely no reason to leave them for the vegetarians.

Taco Station: 1265 East Green Street, Pasadena, (626) 795-1224.Border Grill Truck: Locations available on twitter @BorderGrillTacomiendo: 11462 West Gateway Boulevard, Los Angeles, (310) 481-0804.


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