How do you say the world taco? I say it like taaaco and my friend Alison, who, along with apparently the rest of the world, says it like tah-co, loves to make fun of me for it. Her impression of me doing it is as if I’m in Fargo (the movie, not the series). I wondered if my pronunciation is a Canadianism, but after surveying a number of Canadians it appears it is not. I also wondered if I had somehow picked up a Haligonian accent since my mom is from the east coast, but none of my east coast cousins pronounce taco in this way. I can’t explain it. Other than that I’m saying it how it’s spelled!
Regardless of how you say it, you’re gonna want to get into these tempeh tacos!
I love taco night because it’s always a choose your own adventure situation. If you, like me, live in a household where some members are vegetarian and some are not, you probably already know how awesome taco night is for accommodating everyone. Vegetarian? Choose tempeh or beans over whatever meat is on offer. Vegan? Skip the cheese. Gluten free? Use a gluten free tortilla, or, skip the tortilla altogether and make a taco bowl!
These tempeh tacos are sort of like a vegetarian incarnation of fish tacos. Soft corn tortillas are filled with shredded cabbage, seasoned, pan-fried tempeh, fresh salsa, and avocado slices. When I warmed the tortillas I melted a bit of cheese on them, but this is easily skipped if cheese isn’t your thing.
Fresh salsa is delicious and only takes a couple of minutes to come together, but is by no means mandatory. If you’re crunched for time you can replace it with a jar of your favourite salsa, or seek out fresh salsa from your local deli. Also, I found a bag of pre-washed* shredded cabbage at the grocery store and the second I saw it I just knew there was no way I’d be spending precious minutes shredding cabbage. Less time shredding = more time eating tacos!
*real talk: I always do a quick wash of my pre-washed salads. I’m paranoid about food born illnesses and there have been enough cases of people getting sick from pre-washed bagged salads that I do it every time. Even with a quick wash they’re still a time saver, so use them if you will!
Tempeh is fermented soy food originally from Indonesia. It is fermented with the mold Rhizopus oligosporus in a process similar to cheese making. The fermentation process makes digestion easier and nutrients like zinc, calcium, and iron are more bio available than in non-fermented soy products like tofu. Tempeh is a great source of plant-based protein. Also, because the soy beans in tempeh are still in their whole form, all of the dietary fiber is still intact. Think of tofu as the white bread of the soy world and tempeh as it’s healthier whole grain cousin. Tempeh is usually purchased in a cake-like form and can be sliced or crumbled, and is often steamed, seared, or stir-fried. Look for tempeh that is covered with a thin whitish bloom. Sometimes it has a few black or grayish spots, which is totally fine, but it should have no evidence of pink, yellow, or blue coloration – a sign that it has become overly fermented.
- For the salsa:
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
- 3 scallions, finely sliced
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- For the tempeh:
- 250g package of tempeh, cut into cubes or slices
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp chile powder
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
- For the taco fixings:
- soft corn or flour tortillas
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1-2 avocados, sliced
- ½ cup grated cheese (optional)
- hot sauce and lime wedges for serving
- Start with the salsa so that the flavours have time to develop as you prep the other ingredients.
- In a small bowl combine the diced tomato, crushed garlic, scallions, cilantro, and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Place the diced tempeh in a small bowl and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil.
- Toss to coat well, then sprinkle the cumin, oregano, and chile powder over top, and toss with the tempeh.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet, and add the seasoned tempeh.
- Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the tempeh is golden brown on all sides.
- Remove the tempeh from the skillet and into a bowl.
- Now you can use the still warm skillet to warm your tortillas (you can also do this in the oven) if you like. If you want to add cheese, place a tortilla in to the warm skillet, flip after about 1 minute, then sprinkle with a bit of cheese. Let it melt slightly, then remove onto a waiting plate. Repeat with as many tortillas as you wish.
- To assemble the tacos, sprinkle a bit of shredded cabbage onto a warmed tortilla. Top with tempeh, avocado slices, and fresh salsa. Serve with hot sauce and a wedge of lime. Enjoy!