Halifax Taco Quest: El Nino vs. Indochine (Vegan Edition)
Eat This Town will be entirely vegan/vegetarian this month of May! I’ll be posting some fun vegan content, while committed to an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet. Follow along as I discover delicious alternatives to animal-based foods, while reducing my carbon footprint!
Back in 2014 I predicted that tacos would be the next big food trend in Halifax… and I was right!
(I was just a few years early).
Now, finally, taco shops are starting to pop up around Halifax (one of them is literally a pop-up) and the city is loco for tacos! The Coast even announced their inaugural Taco Week for November, 2019.
I’m not sure if Halifax is culturally prepared to celebrate its own Taco Week… I mean, we are only just graduating from the taco kit. I have long been weathering hurricanes of shredded lettuce and crying into floppy, cold, tortillakerchiefs. I’m not ready to celebrate.
But I’m ready to quest!
Once the tacosplosion seemed immanent, I put the call out on Twitter for anyone who has lived in Mexico, Texas, or even Victoria, BC (Canada’s taco capital?) and I’ve enlisted some new food questers! Joining me today was Sean (who lived in Latin America for over a decade) and Stephanie (Texan by birth, honourary Mexican by adopted family).
Oh, and ReTales. He likes tacos.
Since I am vegetarian this month, I am launching the Halifax Taco Quest with a vegan edition! Seaport market newcomer, El Nino Vegan Tacos, goes head-to-head against fusion sandwich shop, Indochine.
El Nino Vegan Tacos
Halifax Seaport Market (Sat/Sun)
El Nino is a Mexican-run, 100% vegan taco vendor at the Seaport Market.
Our options were Jackfruit Tinga, Suadero, Soyrizo & Potato and Tofu Mexican Scramble. We tried all but the tofu scramble.
Wow! El Nino does a great job on the plant-based “meats”, and we especially liked the “suadero” (a tvp approximation of the namesake cut of meat). “The suadero had good flavour and texture, very “meat-like”,” wrote Sean. The Soyrizo was also good, but didn’t have the intensity that I associate with chorizo. The Jackfruit Tinga (an approximation of saucy shredded chicken), while tasty, was a little wet, and wreaked havoc on the delicate tortilla.
Stephani pointed out that the tortillas were not from-scratch, but I was so happy to have a soft corn tortilla, warmed on the griddle, that I didn’t notice.
I love the simplicity of these tacos: Tortilla + Filling, and DIY condiments.
I topped my tacos with diced onions, cilantro, the Mad Brittany sauce (an awesome salsa verde), cactus pico, cashew sour cream and a squeeze of lime. I very much enjoyed the flavours, and I would gladly frequent El Nino on my market visits – vegetarian or nay!
Indochine Banh Mi
1551 South Park St, Halifax
Indochine has vegan options on every part of their menu, and are especially known for their Vietnamese Subs. They also make “Korean Tacos”, and more recently, “Indonesian Tacos”. The latter vegan option is Rendang Jackfruit w/ Green Plantain, while the other vegan options are BBQ and Bulgogi Tofu.
They are wrapped up in paper, and not visually striking when unwrapped (to put it lightly).
“More like burritos than tacos,” says Stephanie.
“A hot mess!” I jotted in my notes, “… except cold”. An abundance of slaw overwhelmed the other ingredients, in both quantity and temperature. On the plus side, you definitely get a serving of veg!
The highlight of these tacos was the flavourful sauces. The Rendang Jackfruit had a peanut sauce, while the Korean tacos had rich, spicy sauces. Besides the sauces, the Korean tofu tacos were dissimilar in that the BBQ Tofu had crispy, deep fried tofu while the Bulgogi had regular tofu. I really enjoyed the crispy tofu, while Sean, who had the regular tofu, found his kind of bland.
As much as we enjoyed the flavours, we all felt these tacos were too cold, wet, and messy. It’s definitely advisable to treat them like mini burritos, keeping the wrappers on.
ReTales seemed to enjoy these the most, though he conceded that they are not really tacos.
I will say that for a couple more dollars, these tacos are the more filling option. A good value.
El Nino Vegan Tacos
These vegan tacos are a wonderful addition to both the vegan scene and the emerging taco scene, and a strong competitor despite what some people may consider a vegan “drawback”. No drawback here, folks! El Nino does a fantastic job with its mimic meats, and these are supported by soft corn tortillas and excellent condiment options.
My only complaint is that it’s $8 all-in for two tacos, and we were still pretty hungry. I think I’d need to eat 3-4 of these to make a meal out of it.
Indochine’s tacos aren’t really tacos, but they are a healthy and flavourful meal for under $10 ($9.71 for two, with tax) and much more filling.
El Nino definitely makes the better vegan taco, but Indochine is a great restaurant with lots of vegan options that shouldn’t be overlooked.