With the rising popularity of vegan cuisine, most restaurants are starting to offer more vegan-friendly options. That leads to the topic of vegan Mex cuisine. What is it? Is it real? Those are just a few of the questions a small number of vegan Mex entrepreneurs hear on a daily basis. They are part of a growing movement to adapt traditional Mexican cuisine to a vegan mindset without sacrificing quality and flavor.
Visit any of the four Taqueria27 Mexican restaurants in Salt Lake City, Utah, and you’ll find several menu items that don’t contain meat or dairy products. The restaurant doesn’t offer a vegan menu per se, but its owners aren’t dead set against serving food that vegans can appreciate. Recipes don’t have to contain meat or dairy products to be genuine Mexican food.
Basics of Vegan Mex
No doubt some die hard authentic Mexican food experts would consider vegan Mex a betrayal. But let us stop and think about that for a minute. There are plenty of ingredients in authentic Mexican food that are not animal products. Think tomatoes, rice, pinto beans, and so forth. You might not necessarily be a big fan, but you could take any of your favorite Mexican recipes and simply remove the animal products. The resulting recipe would be no less Mexican.
Vegan Mex is a type of cuisine that seeks to be plant-based as much as possible. How far restaurateurs go is up to them. Some avoid all animal products in total. Others are willing to embrace fish while staying away from meat and poultry. In either case, the idea is to create Mexican-inspired recipes that stay as true as possible to tradition but without the meat and dairy.
As Authentic as Anything Else
A November 11 (2019) article published by The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) says that vegan Mex is a growing trend in many areas of the country. The paper specifically mentions Las Vegas, Austin, and Phoenix as cities with a growing vegan Mex community. The paper also says that vegan Mex restaurateurs in some cities had been subjected to some pretty harsh criticism from patrons.
One of the biggest criticisms of vegan Mex is that it is allegedly not authentic. Such assertions are absolutely ridiculous. Vegan Mex is as authentic as anything else. It is authentic to the people who create the recipes and cook the food.
Is it reasonable to assume that there are vegans in Mexico? Absolutely. Do those people prepare traditional recipes without meat and dairy included? You bet. Their food is every bit as authentic as any other food served in Mexico. As such, claiming that vegan Mex in the U.S. is not authentic is without merit.
Recipes Are Flui
Perhaps the debate over authentic and non-authentic food is an American thing. Maybe we desire our imports to be ‘pure’ in the sense that not allowing them to be influenced by American ideas somehow makes them better. But truth be told, authenticity in food is really nothing more than a marketing scheme.
The point is that recipes are fluid. What is a favorite recipe your mother used to cook? Chances are said recipe was not handed down through the generations without being altered. Perhaps even your own mother made a few changes to suit her tastes. That’s the way food works. There really are no rules.
As such, defining Mexican cuisine as authentic based on it containing meat and cheese doesn’t make a lot of sense. Vegan Mex is not only authentic, it is legitimate. It may not be something that suits your palate, and that’s fine. But it suites lots of palates even though some traditional Mexican ingredients are left out.