Some would argue the only good thing to come out of 2020 was the opening of the bricks and mortar restaurant, Don Taco. What began as a humble pop-up stall has transformed into a raging success in Brunswick East, serving up fresh Mexican street food that is 100% vegan, bursting with vibrancy and flamboyant flavour that has got the whole town talking.
They have an authentic menu of tempting starters and sides, frijoles negros and guacamole piled high, Mexican style loaded fries, and crispy coated churros for dessert. But in true Mexican style, it is their extensive taco range that fills the mains menu. Soft corn tortillas are buckling under mounds of chipotle cauliflower, slow-cooked shredded mushroom, banana blossom ‘phish’ fillets, and lashings of ‘Hot Lips’ sauce, fresh coriander and spicy salsa. There are flavour combos here we have never even dreamed of and veggie protein options that will have your meat-eating other half begging for more.
Recently we sat down with chef, Vannesa Mora Osorio over a few Pina Coladas to get the inside scoop for his top tips of perfecting the ideal vegan taco at the meeting place for this Mexican Comida.
Vegan Taco Tips
The star of the show- The Protein
Traditionally food in Mexico is focused on animal protein, they have been playing around with cooking techniques and condiments for centuries and know how to perfect the balance for a tender piece of meat suitable for a bite-size taco. But for chef Vannesa, she believed it was possible to source plant-based alternatives that play perfectly with the cultured cooking processes of Mexican cuisine. It was a process that challenged everything she knew about food preparations but the result was outstanding.
“We are making almost everything from scratch, our schnitzel is made from rice, mushrooms and spices. Our fish is made from banana blossom, which is marinated with seaweed and spices. We have our version of carnitas, which we make with king mushrooms marinated in coca-cola, orange juice and some spices from Michoacan Mexico.”
Thinking outside the box she was even able to create vegan chorizo, using a base of soy protein that is marinated with chillies directly imported from Mexico. Capturing a source of protein that was authentic, full of colour and just a little bit spicy!
Chefs Tip: King mushrooms are readily available and easily cooked down in spices to give the perfect protein for your plant-based taco.
Worldly flavours- Spices and Seasonings
Vannesa believes that to gain that level of quality and authentic flavour she strives to offer her customers, she really had to source the fundamental favours from the motherland. All of Don Taco’s essential chilli’s and seasonings are purchased directly from Mexico. Some of these seasonings and chilli varieties are found nowhere else, and to compromise on them would compromise on the overall flavour of the dish.
Chefs Tip: Find yourself a great market that offers different dried chilli’s that will lift the overall flavour of your dish. A little bit of work here can make all the difference.
Original & the best- Sauces/Salsa
Fingerlicking hot sauce is key to complimenting the freshest of the salsa and the crispness of the proteins, so all of Don Tacos sauces are made from scratch. Many of you may already be familiar with Don Taco’s famed Hot Lips Salsa, Salsa Roja or Salsa Verde? Yes, these are all little flavour masterpieces of the one and only Vannesa Mora Osorio.
Chefs Tip: Salsa Roja made from scratch should be your first choice but make sure not to overdo it.
Fill it to the brim- The Toppings
What makes Don Taco special is its ethical and sustainable standpoint as a restaurant. For their menu this means that they are only sourcing the freshest local seasonal produce, carefully curating a new menu every three months to reflect the availability of produce and the changing seasons. So during the summertime, you might be enjoying some Pineapple Pico de gallo on your ‘phish’ taco, come early spring expect some early season cherry tomatoes and roasted spring onions.
Chefs Tip: Keep it simple, most of our vegan tacos have 3-4 elements to make sure that the flavours are rich but uncomplicated.
The base layer- The Tortillas
Corn or flour? The answer will always be corn in the Don Taco house- this is because the corn tortilla is the traditional way to serve tacos in Mexico. It also has the added value of being gluten-free!
But for those who do want to splash out and try something a little left of field, you can sample Don Taco’s alternative flour tortilla filled with creamy smash potato, tomato sauce, coriander, vegan feta cheese and avocado. A dish that will take you directly back to memories of home-cooked food.
There is no doubt that you really have to find the time to try this vegan feed that everyone is talking about. And if you can hip and shoulder your way into the store on a Tuesday evening, their ‘All-you-can-eat tacos for $15” is a steal.