Pesto and pulled jackfruit tacos. In Southern California, working-class Mexican-American chefs are giving traditionally meaty dishes a vegan spin. Evi Oravecz/Green Evi/Picture Press/Getty Images

We are happy to see another story posted by Gustavo Arellano in the salt files at National Public Radio (USA):

Carne Asada, Hold The Meat: Why Latinos Are Embracing Vegan-Mexican Cuisine


Loreta Ruiz (center) runs La Vegana Mexicana, a food pop-up based in Southern California, with her children, Loreta Sierra (left) and Luis Sierra. Gustavo Arellano/for NPR

Tall, dreadlocked Josh Scheper knew he was out of place as he surveyed the scene at a Santa Ana, Calif., parking lot on a Sunday morning this past April. And the 46-year-old loved it.

Hundreds of people waited in line at stalls for vegan food, but few people looked like the Los Angeles resident. Nearly everyone in the crowd was young and Latino, as were the chefs. The food on sale was Mexican — but not hippie-dippy cafe standbys like cauliflower tacos, or tempeh-stuffed burritos. Instead, chefs reimagined meaty classics that were honest-to-goodness bueno.

Vegatinos offered jackfruit tacos, the fruit cooked so that it tasted like al pastor, the spiced pork-on-a-spit tradition from central Mexico. Vegan by Victoria’s, the host of the event, hawked dairy-free Mexican and Salvadoran pan dulce (sweet bread). Another stall blasted ranchera music as a stern-looking millennial wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers hat and a Pendleton jacket ladled vegan pozole (hominy stew usually prepared with pork) into big bowls while he sung its praises to a customer.

Scheper stared in awe at it all. “[I’m] happy to not have white hipster vegans run all the vegan stuff,” he finally said, tongue only somewhat in cheek.

Vegan Latino cuisine has received some mainstream attention this decade, from New York City (where Erick Castro shares his Puerto Rican creations on Instagram at How to Be Vegan in the Hood) to Colombian-American cookbook author Carolyn Scott-Hamilton in Miami.

But over the past year, pop-up festivals organized around Vegan-Mex vendors in Southern California have become a local sensation. They usually occur in working-class Latino suburbs like Santa Ana, Ontario, Highland Park, and Whittier. Full-time vegans – or white ones, for that matter — are a minority at these events. The majority of customers are young Mexican-Americans who heard about the pop-ups on social media, or through word-of-mouth best summed up the following way: No, seriously, it’s good! And it tastes like the real thing!

The movement’s hype is such that vegan caterer La Venganza won L.A. Taco’s annual Taco Madness competition for best taco in Southern California, beating far-more-established (and non-vegan) competitors. It’s a victory that chef-owner Raul Medina quickly downplays.

“I didn’t win,” he said. “Veganism did.”…

Read the whole story here.

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