Vegan Tacos, Authentic & Inspired Recipes for Mexico's Favorite Street Food, Jason Wyrick (Vegan Heritage Press, 2014)
When the founder of ‘Vegans Eat What (VEW)’ asked me to review “Vegan Tacos” I said sure. Inside I was thinking “Likely to be boring”. After all, I thought, “how much more is there to say about tacos?” The answer is: LOTS! This is really a unique book. Curiously, Jason Wyrick lived for 12 years in the same town in Texas where I was born and reared and we both had access to an endless variety of excellent “Tex-Mex” food and seasonings. He now lives in Arizona, another area blessed by access to good seasonings, spices and all things wonderful for cooking and eating great Mexican (or Mexican derived) food.
What do I like about this book? It is creative in so many ways. Jason features tacos from various regions of Mexico as well as some great choices from his own “Casa Jason”. These recipes include taco fillings that are way beyond your basic plain taco fillings even if you include meat substitutes. He tells you how to make various sauces and where to find ingredients and what you can substitute if you can’t find those ingredients. He tells you how to make your own tortillas. He tells you how to make a simple Crema as well as more complex vegan cheeses.
I think he knows that some of us will cheat! I’m blessed to live in a metro area with ample access to Mexican spices and salsas and our favorite tortilleria. As a result, we buy our tortillas for use on the day that we want to eat or cook with them. Fresh corn tortillas which are still warm! You can guess how many are eaten before we get home! Yes, eating ‘homemade’ is surely a special taste experience and perhaps you’ll never return to buying them after making your own. But, having sung the praises of using ‘homemade’ tortillas, it is unlikely that all readers will opt for making tortillas from scratch. Even Wyrick admits to not making them fresh at times, especially when he comes home really tired. The great thing about this book is that you can follow the recipes completely, or use parts of them, and you will still be able to produce terrific tacos and create new recipes as well.
We decided to try several recipes all at once so as to have fresh tortillas for all of them. The ‘VEW’ creator and her husband joined us in our “taste test”. Suffice it to say that while we each had different favorites, we were all stuffed by the end of the meal. In fact, we had to take breaks during the meal! (We hope that you appreciate our dedication to this task of testing these recipes!)
Here’s what we tried: Tacos with Sweet Potatoes and Chard, Tacos with Hot Dogs and Tomato Salsa (we substituted Tofurkey brand sausages for the vegan hot dogs), Mushroom Tacos, Tacos Rapidos with Quick and Easy Pintos Borrachos, and Pineapple and Banana Dessert Tacos. We also made the Crema (a huge hit), Cajeta sauce for the dessert and we served everything with sides of roasted peppers, salsas, Pepitas, Piñon nuts and Crema. We were going to make the Mojo de Ajo but found a vegan Mojo do Criollo that we liked for cooking so we used that instead. What a feast we had! In making the Mushroom Tacos we had a huge amount of the mushroom filling left over so we later made a great white bean gravy the next day to go over it and used it on greens and also on toast for very yummy breakfasts (a simple and very rich “biscuits and gravy” type of dish). It would have also been great on pasta and with some added Crema. The extra Crema is wonderful for everything (as evidenced by one guest who may well get this as a present in the future). The Cajeta sauce (minus the apples) was simply amazing and would enhance any dessert from the lowest store-bought vegan dessert to the highest end delicate special cakes. I made the mistake of cutting the recipe in half. Don’t repeat my error – make the entire batch and I promise that you will be glad you did. It is an amazing, rich caramel sauce and, yes, all vegan.
There are many more recipes in this book that we will try. And to Kris and her request for a review of this book – mea culpa! You were right, you were so very right!
Glenn McCarthy 10/17/2014