Making Quinoa Taco Mix from Thug Kitchen 101

I’ve loved Mexican food since I can’t remember when. Back in the day in Wellington there was a place called The Mexican Cantina that I have fond memories of eating at when I was a kid. And on the odd occasion we’d have Mexican food made with those Old El Paso taco kits. Kiwis probably love their nachos almost more than the Americans do (they’re not authentic, in case you were wondering), and Mexican does vegetarian very well, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that I became a fan.


I got to try more authentic and tastier stuff when I spent decent amounts of time in the US, in Arizona and San Diego, both not far from the border. It certainly wasn’t all legit, and mostly not plant-based but it was tasty as: cheese enchiladas from some greasy, hole-in-the-wall Mexican place in Pacific Beach after a decent Saturday night, insanely huge loaded burritos from Chipotle while languishing on the couch Sundays watching football, and Rubio’s and Baja Fresh whenever I could.


I arrived back in New Zealand thoroughly addicted to cheap, fresh, and convenient Mexican food to discover disappointedly that there wasn’t much going on here. Wellington didn’t even have a single Mexican restaurant it seemed. That’s all changed now though thankfully, and at least 4 options spring to mind (sadly, none of which are open in the wee hours). Most excitingly, one of these is entirely plant-based, really tasty, and really close to where I live – Boquita, from the same people who brought us La Boca Loca, which I rate as Wellington’s best Mexican restaurant. I won’t be heading there this month as their stuff all contains oil. But other than that I’d have to say they’re pretty awesome, really creative flavours, and they’re often changing the menu so the options never get stale.


So I love that the Thug Kitchen cookbooks all have plenty of Mexican style foods that include reasonably exotic but not too difficult to find nowadays ingredients. It’s a nice balance between being authentic enough that people here will think you’re pro, but not so much that you’ll have order the ingredients online from the US.


This time I chose to make ‘Quinoa Taco Mix’ from page 122 of Thug Kitchen 101.


Again, very little conversion was required of the recipe. It asks for 2 tablespoons of olive oil to sauté onion and red bell pepper – easily left out and will make zero difference to the flavour. I was able to pick up a fresh jalapeño no worries at Moore Wilsons Fresh and chop and seed it without getting any in my eyes (#winning).


I made the black beans from dried according to an adapted recipe from La Boca Loca that I’ll probably post some other time. And then because I couldn’t be bothered buying smoked paprika and had no plain chili powder anyhow I used chipotle. Important note when using American cookbooks – their chili powder is seemingly way more mild than ours is (weirdly), so when they say use a tablespoon of chili powder, DON’T (unless you’re one of those people who orders everything ‘Indian hot’). I also left out the 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or Bragg’s because salt. And who actually uses Bragg’s?


For the tacos, I used Tio Pablo corn tortillas, which are pricey but quicker than me having to bust out the masa and tortilla press (maybe if I was trying to impress someone other than myself). Fortunately you can get them in 1kg packs from the trade/bulk shopping bit at Moore Wilsons for around $14 if you eat as many as I do (or just like a bargain).


The result is in the picture above. Unfortunately my food photography skills are lacking when it comes to tacos. These were GOOD. If I have one complaint about Boquita’s tacos it’s that they’re not very filling. Delicious and awesome flavours, but I suspect I could eat 6 or more and then some. These tacos were, with the combo of quinoa and beans a winner in both the taste and satiation department. Nice and spicy too, maybe a little too spicy for those of you who aren’t fans of the hot stuff (just reduce the quantities, no excuses!) In fact, I sent the recipe straight to Matt who loves the heat.


I found I was a little lazy to make anything else to go with them, and the mix does pretty good without any additional stuff. But I imagine they would be elevated to some kind of Boquita/La Boca Loca level of greatness with the addition of some guac and a decent salsa, maybe a couple of sprinkles of hot sauce. The Thugs suggest adding ‘Midsummer Salsa’, shredded letuuce, diced red onion, and ‘Everyday Guacamole’. Both recipes somewhat suspiciously coming from either of their two other cookbooks, but you get the idea. So if you’re entertaining guests or trying to impress, it’s likely to be well worth going that extra mile. Anyhow, I’m giving these a solid 8 out of 10, and recommend you check them out!

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