The thought of eating vegetarian in Tijuana may seem strange.
After all, when considering the cuisine of our neighbor to the south, one generally pictures the carne asada, chorizo, adobada, and braided tripa tacos that are as ubiquitous as Oxxo’s on the streets of Centro and beyond.
But, over the past few years, Tijuana has shown a growing interest in vegan and vegetarian dishes that are transforming the way the city relates to its dinner plate.
“Sometimes you ask for something without meat and they will offer you chicken,” says Victor Rangel of vegan vendors Blondie Brown. “However, I think we are seeing more options, and for the past couple years there have been vegetarian festivals.”
As showcased by the most recent biannual Vegetarian Cuisine & Arts Fair, held at the outdoor gastronomy court Food Garden, Tijuana is exploring meatless eats with a distinct and inimitable Baja twist.
Rather than follow the path of San Diego’s flagship veggie-Mex stop, Pokez — who stuff classics such as flautas, burritos, and tacos with tofu, soyrizo, potatoes, and mushrooms — TJ innovators are pursuing a more globally-minded fusion approach that, hand-in-hand with the Baja Med movement, takes advantage of the region’s bounty of produce, cheese, baked goods, and (for pescatarians) seafood.
It only makes sense. Traditional Mexican cuisine relies heavily on vegetables, fruits, and grains, as meat is expensive and reserved for special occasions among poorer communities.
Accordingly, Tijuana’s unique take on veggie fare is exemplified by highlights such as cauliflower ceviche tostadas, portobello “fish” tacos, and seitan adobada.
Also taking cues from Mexico City, one finds southern staples such as nopales, flores de calabaza (squash blossoms), huitlacoche, blue corn, and epazote leaf incorporated into dishes.
It’s no longer just elotes and frijoles for TJ vegetarians. Veggiejuana is here to show you how.