This month we review a book that turns Mexican Street Food into a pleasurable vegan dining experience.
Authentic & Inspired Recipes for Mexico's Favorite Street Food
By Jason Wyrick
Vegan Heritage Press, 2014
Jason Wyrick is a superhero in the vegan community. He doesn't wear a cape, but he could don one with a big T encased in a shield. From this time forward he may be known as Taco Man fighting dietary injustice in America.
Wyrick, a chef who personally licked his nemesis, the evil diabetes, has created an outstanding cookbook, Vegan Tacos: Authentic & Inspired Recipes for Mexico's Favorite Street Food. The book has everything you would want to know about tacos and even more.
Wyrick is the the co-author of the best-selling 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart with Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of The Vegan Culinary Experience (world's first vegan food magazine), and executive chef of the website The Vegan Taste.
Although he can trace his own roots to Mexican heritage (a great grand uncle who cooked for Pancho Villa), Wyrick has managed to immerse himself in the history and food of that culture.
The book begins with a history of the taco and its ingredients. "Tacos are the quintessential eats of one of the most diverse food cultures of the world," he writes. Essentially, a taco is a hand-sized tortilla, usually soft, folded into a u-shape and wrapped around a bunch of ingredients. After that, anything goes.
In a chapter on ingredients and equipment, the author provides detailed information on the different chiles and their preparation, masa and hominy, and herbs and spices. He also discusses the vegetables that can be used. Meat substitutes like seitan and chorizo, either purchased or prepared by the home cook, are featured items for building great tacos. He provides recipes for both as well as tools for making the tacos.
Preparing tortillas from scratch is the focus of one chapter in the book. The cook can go all the way back to making the corn dough or just purchase it as masa harina. Tortillas, formerly formed by hand, can now be fashioned on a simple, inexpensive tortilla press. Wyrick even includes flavored variations: garlic, black bean, beer, and salted lime.
One of the key chapters in the book is Foundation Ingredients and Techniques. Here the author gives instruction in pan roasting and fire roasting vegetables as well as recipes for Mojo de Ajo (roasted garlic-citrus infused oil), Flattened Seitan, Vegan Chorizo, and Red Achiote Paste.
The heart of the book is divided into nine chapters of different types of tacos by how they are prepared or the region where they originated. Here the reader will find Tacos Ma–aneros (breakfast tacos), Tacos Dulces (dessert tacos), and Fusion Tacos (cross-cultural tacos like Tacos Tempura).
Wyrick concludes the recipe portion of the book with chapters titled Top that Taco (toppings), Salsas and Guacamoles, Sides (Zesty rice, beans, potatoes, and other taco go-withs), and Bebidas (refreshing drinks like Sangria or Horchata to accompany the taco).
The book concludes with Resources for shopping online and a Glossary of Spanish terms used throughout the book.
The volume itself is a lavish visual experience with numerous color photos and illustrations. Colorful sidebars and graphically enticing division pages truly enhance the book.
Home cooks can find a huge number of recipes for tacos in books and on the internet. What distinguishes Vegan Tacos: Authentic & Inspired Recipes for Mexico's Favorite Street Food from the others is the healthy and compassionate recipes in this book. Jason Wyrick can now claim the title of superhero and wear the cape because he has elevated the simple taco to a level of super taste and health. No matter what cooking expertise the reader has, there will be recipes and techniques in this book to stir one's desire for the taste of authenticity and creativity.