I am sitting at a tiny desk in a tiny restaurant tucked above a subway station on the amorphous über-trendy intersection of Chinatown and the Decrease East Facet. I am surrounded by what appears to be off-duty fashions with completely messy hair, and all I can take into consideration is the urge to undo the highest button of my denims. That, and the way I can by some means eat one other chunk of enchilada.
Ja Ja Ja (pronounced “ha ha ha,” a noise a number of folks in entrance of me made when knowledgeable of the hour-plus Wednesday-night wait time) combines two ideas so disparate as to virtually be an oxymoron: vegan Mexican meals. Mexican is arguably the toughest delicacies to vegan-ify, usually leaning closely on cheeses, meats, and animal fat for the hearty, recognizable flavors. Whereas old-school vegan staples like faux meats and mayonnaises pop up on the Ja Ja Ja menu, they’ve additionally (much more curiously) set about superfood-ifying Mexican staples. Black beans are fermented, for a fancy, tangy taste. Squash is battered with hemp and flaxseeds and smothered in chipotle almond butter to turn into a facsimile of a “fish” taco with a crispy crust that, to my skilled tongue, got here rattling near passing as fried. Tortillas are spiked with turmeric; the Tinga Tostada is served on a chlorophyll-corn base. The meals and environment are festive, not austere or rooted in deprivation; with matcha cocktails that also characteristic a beneficiant serving of alcohol, there’s an understanding that wellness is about celebration, tasting good, and having fun with life.
I chatted a bit with the founders to get the secrets and techniques behind their runaway success.
Vegan Mexican meals is kind of bold—the place’d the thought come from?
It made sense for us to veganize Mexican meals as a result of traditionally, the traditional Mexican weight-reduction plan is plant- and grain-driven. We noticed a void with nobody diving in, an area for us to discover our menu in a enjoyable, playful, wholesome, and interactive means—one thing that vegans and non-vegans alike may get pleasure from.
Are you vegan?
Considered one of our companions is a vegetarian, and two of our foremost childhood mates/buyers are fully plant-based eaters. At any time when we’d exit with them, there have been numerous obstacles in ordering for the desk, so we needed to be part of the answer by discovering frequent floor for a shared expertise (no matter dietary decisions).
What’s the preferred dish at Ja Ja Ja?
Our Chayote “Fish” Taco—chayote being a standard South American squash common in Mexican cooking—has positively been an merchandise folks cannot get sufficient of, and we discover our nachos fairly arduous to beat.
What have been the toughest Mexican meals to veganize? What options did you provide you with?
The core of our menu is Mexican avenue meals, most of which historically incorporates meat in varied methods. That was our largest problem—making great-tasting tacos with acquainted textures. With a view to clear up that downside we looked for greens that would not solely maintain up nicely with varied cooking strategies however improve the flavors of each dish whereas remaining true to the basis of the dish.
What are some things folks can do at residence to make their cooking somewhat bit more healthy?
Having enjoyable exploring your kitchen is actually the important thing. Prepare dinner with extra greens in artistic methods! You’ll be able to alleviate the necessity for oil through the use of high-water-content greens, equivalent to onions and mushrooms, and in the reduction of on sugars by changing them with pure fruits. We additionally attempt to use less-processed starches, and to include charcoal into a couple of gadgets to assist the digestive system.
Need to get cooking? This is tips on how to make a gooey, crave-worthy vegan cheese, and a vegan chocolate mousse with a shocking secret ingredient!