I was reading about a Mexican dish called “Birria” in The New York Times yesterday and the dish sounded so scrumptious, it compelled me online for a vegan birria deep-dive. Birria is apparently “a big bowl of hot goat meat submerged in a dark pool of its own concentrated cooking juices,” so it actually makes little sense that a vegan version would exist, and yet…IT DOES! And apparently, the meat replacement of choice is rehydrated dried hibiscus flowers!!
Well, I happen to have a truckload of dried hibiscus flowers because hibiscus tea is incredibly healthy: it’s an antioxidant, lowers blood pressure and blood-fat levels, is good for your liver and kidneys, and a host of other good things. That said, hibiscus is incredibly sour, so if you’re making tea with it, be prepared–it’s an acquired taste!
After reviewing a host of hibiscus-meat recipes, I decided to make soft tacos with this recipe from Tasty as a starting point.
So, first off, you’ll need to make Alton Brown’s Taco Seasoning No. 19 to have on hand.
Next, make a nice batch of soft corn tortillas.
These are easy-peasy: just mix equal parts fine or instant masa flour and water (2 cups of each will result in 14 to 16 small tortillas) until you can form a ball. Let the dough rest for fifteen minutes, then divide into 50 gram balls of dough, press each ball in a tortilla press. Heat on a skillet for 40 seconds or so, flip, and heat for another 40 seconds or so.
Finally, make a batch of this cashew-dill dressing.
Hibiscus Meat Soft Tacos
1 cup dried hibiscus leaves
2 cups water
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 TBS of taco seasoning
12 small corn tortillas
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1-2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped
Place hibiscus leaves in a colander and run under cold water to rinse for a few minutes, then place in a pan with two cups of water and boil for ten minutes. Cover and let sit for two hours.
Spray a pan with a bit of oil and saute onions and garlic until soft. Drain the hibiscus (keep the water) and pat dry. Add to the pan with onions and garlic and sprinkle on taco seasoning. If the pan becomes dry, add a tiny bit of broth or water. Saute until everything is cooked through.
Place a scoop of the hibiscus meat meat in a line on each corn tortilla, top with sliced onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Drizzle with cashew-dill dressing and serve!
Allow for three or four soft tacos per person.
The hibiscus “meat” is surprisingly quite, well….meaty. It does, however, retain a bit of its characteristic sour flavour, so the taco seasoning and rich dressing are necessary components of the recipe. Along with the hibiscus tacos, I served each of us a buffalo cauliflower taco for variety (and because I had a bunch of buffalo cauliflower and vegan blue cheese drizzle left over from making Stranger Wings pizza last evening!). And James made vegan grilled Caesar salads to round out the meal–delicious!!
With so many other options for vegan “pork” such as jackfruit and seitan, I’m not sure this would be my go-to pork replacement, but it’s nice to know that in a pinch, I could whip up “meaty,” spicy soft tortillas for a crowd!
Now, as for that bright red water leftover from cooking and soaking the hibiscus flower, I hope you didn’t throw it away because it is full of SO much goodness. I added mine to smoothies for an extra boost of antioxidants. Oh, and I also had some with soda water over ice for a tart, refreshing thirst-quencher!
The song of the day is Yo La Tengo “Tears are in your Eyes” because I am listening to Yo La Tengo today and it’s the song that’s playing right at this moment!