While tacos void of meat and cheese don’t sound particularly alluring, the 100% vegan Mexican fare at Jajaja in Manhattan’s Chinatown is anything but flavorless. Rather than serving entrees packed with meat and dairy alternatives, Jajaja co-owner Koorosh Bakhtiar cooks his food with a variety of plant-based, meat-free ingredients -- in short, it’s all real food. “Faux meat just creates more of a synthetic type of cuisine,” Bakhtiar tells Thrillist, “and we wanted to make true food.”
According to Bakhtiar, it’s not hard to use natural ingredients in place of meat. For his popular fish tacos, he batters strips of chayote -- a South American squash -- in cornmeal and flax seed, then fries them before placing them inside blue corn tortillas with diced cabbage, pickled red onion, and chipotle almond butter. The chorizo nachos, another popular item, are made with seitan, fermented refried beans, and turmeric queso fundido. And for the ceviche, which is of course seafood-free, Bakhtiar uses hijiki seaweed. He combines diced red and yellow peppers, hearts of palm, lime, and the seaweed fish-alternative, then serves the veggie melange on a bed of house-made plantain chips.
"There's a stigma about vegan cuisine and vegan food,” Bakhtiar says, “and we're trying to do something against the grain -- something that’s still delicious”
Bakhtiar’s plans to change the conversation around vegan fare seems to be working -- the eatery, which often has a line out the door, has plans to open a second location in Williamsburg this October.
Watch the video to learn more about the meat-free Mexican delicacies.