Hi all. So in my last foodie write up I talked about Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel’s “Decolonize Your Diet” cookbook. But my journey to find vegan/vegetarian versions of classic Mexican dishes didn’t start there.
About a year ago I stumbled upon a jewel of a blog called Dora’s Table. Dora Stone – the chef behind the blog – was born and raised in Mexico and attended the Culinary Institute of America in order to refine her kitchen chops. She now lives in Hawaii with her family and produces content for her blog which focuses on vegan-Mexican cuisine. She has an e-cookbook called Vegan Tamales Unwrapped which delves into how to vegan-ize one of the most traditional – and meat centered! – dishes in Mexican culture.
I first discovered Dora’s blog about the same time I was looking for recipes that were compatible with my mom’s vegan diet and not so ‘scary’ for my meat-eating, Mexicano dad. Cooking for a family mixed with carnivores and herbivores can be so difficult! When I found Dora’s Table, I immediately gravitated towards her tacos. The first recipe I tried was the Carrot and Sweet Potato Tinga tacos. Not only was the recipe easy and straightforward but it was delicious! I snuck it to the table without letting anyone in the family know there wasn’t any meat in the recipe, and when the secret was revealed everyone was very surprised!
This is one of my favorite recipes to make, but I’ve tried many of her taco recipes and they have all been super delicious and approachable. I don’t even miss the meat. Her blog is also beautiful – with pictures and an easy to use layout. Luckily, I got the chance to ask Dora a few questions about her blog and about being a vegan Mexicana, and she was just as sweet as she sounds on her blog!
1. I love your website. Tell me a little bit about what made you gravitate to vegan-Mexican food, and what made you decide to your blog on this?
It was actually my mom that brought on my focus towards vegan-Mexican. I was born and raised in Mexico and my parents still live there. My mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about two years ago. I had been vegan for about a year and I tried to convince my mom that she could reverse her type-2 diabetes with a whole food, plant-based diet. She was not very receptive to the idea, and even less so when I tried to get her to eat Vietnamese tofu spring rolls! Suddenly I knew what I had to do, so I transformed my blog to being vegan-Mexican in an effort to get my mom to go vegan.
2. You are professionally educated by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) but from Mexico – tell me a little bit more about what it is like to be a Mexican chef trained in the U.S.?
It was definitely an adventure. My parents used their life savings and even put themselves in debt to send me, as my dad put it, to “the best school”. So I moved to NY to go to culinary school. The CIA is an amazing place to be at. The teachers, the facilities, the visiting chefs, and the incredible library make it one of the best places to learn how to cook. I didn’t think I was going to struggle with the language since my English was very good, but I didn’t know the names of most of the ingredients, tools, or kitchen terminology. It also took me a long time to get cultural references. For a long time I would just nod and laugh in agreement. The community of students at the CIA is very international so I never felt out of place or experienced any discrimination at all. Every day I was there I considered my self blessed or lucky that I had the opportunity to leave my country and learn from the best.
3. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges people face when they decide to go vegan? What are some of the benefits of altering your diet to exclude meat and animal products?
I think some of the biggest challenges people face have nothing to do with what you choose to no longer eat. The biggest challenges are the lack of support from family members, spouses, and friends; socialization (having nothing to eat at parties, etc.); and missing the cultural and emotional connection that we have with food. Food evokes memories, emotions, it is part of our culture and upbringing. When you choose to no longer eat animal products you might lose some of those connections, but over time I have learned that almost any dish can be adapted and still evoke those same feelings and spiritual connections.Some of the benefits that I have seen in my own life are weight loss, more energy, less stomach issues (gas, bloating, nausea), better hair, better skin, and I am not sick as often as before. There are many more benefits like reversing type 2 diabetes, lowering cholesterol, reversing heart disease, improvement in symptoms of auto-immune diseases, and many more.
4.What are some staples of Mexican food (i.e. jicama, nopales, etc.) that you think could/should be more popular in the U.S.?
Definitely jicama and nopales. I would like to see more people learning how to use the different dried chiles, and I would like to see more corn tortillas that aren’t made with preservatives. Oh and salsa, Americans know maybe 3 salsas, but there are so many more.
5.That’s so true! We need more salsa varieties. What are some recipes from your blog that you would recommend to cooks who are just starting to get comfortable in the kitchen (i.e. for beginners)?
6. Sweet potato & carrot tinga tacos are my favorite! Do you have any favorite recipes in your blog / e-cookbooks?
I would say my favorite recipe on the blog would be chile relleno with zucchini and quinoa., in my free ebook ” My Mexican Table” there is a recipe for oatmeal raisin piloncillo cookies that I love, and in “Vegan Tamales Unwrapped” the recipe for Jackfruit Red Chile Tamales is really really good.
7. My mom decided to go vegan about two years ago and hasn’t looked back since. But I feel like she (and the rest of my family) is still looking for replacements or ways to make some standard Mexican staples that are suitable for her diet. Recipes like pozole, arroz con leche, and chocolate (like Abuelita’s) are hard to find vegan versions of and don’t have the same flavors when the meat and dairy are left out. Any tips or suggestions?
Of course there are things that will not taste the same, but once you have been on a plant-based diet for a while you don’t really crave the actual meat, what you miss is the flavor of the dish and that can be easily achieved. I am working my way through the classic Mexican dishes in the next couple of months so I hope to tackle some of those dishes. Right now you can find a homemade vegan chorizo, vegan chilaquiles rojos, lentil picadillo, marranitos, pan de muerto and more.
Dora is a very talented chef and I will continue to refer back to her blog for recipes again and again. If you haven’t check it out yet, visit DorasTable.com/recipes for vegan soups, moles, enchiladas, paletas, and even ice cream!