Club Mexicana vs Neil Rankin
INSIDE THE MAKING OF THE VEGAN CHEESEBURGER TACO
Street Feast goes behind the scenes on the exclusive collaboration between Club Mexicana’s Meriel Armitage and Temper’s Neil Rankin for our Extraveganza party
How the collaboration came about..
Meriel: We’d planned to do it for a while. I first met Neil through Street Feast – he was a kind of mentor to the traders. I was really surprised when he was complimentary about our food – I just thought we’d never really speak to each other because he did nose-to-tail meat stuff and I was the weirdo doing the vegan food that no one really spoke to anyway.
Neil: I had the to-fish taco, which I thought I was going to hate, but when I had it I thought “no, it’s brilliant”. And her food ever since then has come on leaps and bounds. Her “chicken” burgers are better than 95% of the ones out there.
How the vegan taco was crafted..
Neil: We’ve replicated Temper’s cheeseburger taco, but we’ve done it as a quesadilla as we think it makes more sense to do it that way. Vegan meats, even the ones that taste really nice, aren’t normally lookers. So to highlight the meat would be wrong. What you want to do is put the vegetables and pickles around it and then hide the meat within, so you’re amplifying the textures and flavours. People eat with their eyes, and if they see something that’s grey, or not quite right, they panic and the eyes do the tasting for them.
Meriel: For the burger itself, it was mostly about getting the texture right. There’s a few black beans in there, some Mexican spices.. it’s a combination of secret ingredients.
Neil: We’ve gone for soft vegan cheese, as I think harder vegan cheeses can get quite claggy when melted. So we’ve used a cashew nut one that’s already melted – it just had a bit more flavour to it.
The challenges they faced..
Meriel: Well obviously I’d never tried Neil’s cheeseburger taco, so I was relying on pictures. But getting the right texture of the burger was quite tricky. There are all sorts of typical tricks that are used to bind a burger or make it have a meaty texture, but they’re used so often – especially nutritional yeast. As soon as I taste anything with that in now, it’s all I can taste. So it’s about trying to get that burger texture without introducing a dominance of one of those tricks.
Neil: The biggest mistake vegan companies make is producing really big-flavoured burgers, with loads of dominating ingredients in. And then the flavours you’re actually looking for – the mustards, the pickles – are dead. My worry with veganism going forward is that everything’s going to be really processed, and lab-based stuff. Which should scare the living daylights out of anybody, if they really think about it, because it’s just people controlling things. It’s all wrong.
Whether there were any disagreements in the kitchen…
Meriel: No – we both like really banging flavours.
Neil: They’re pretty much the same, the two tacos [meat and vegan]. We have the same ideas on spice so we’re on the same path, which is why we don’t really argue. Plus I’ve tried more of her cooking than she has of mine, so she can’t tell me my stuff’s shit.
Extraveganza takes place at Dinerama on Wednesday 23 January. Tickets are £6, which includes a free glass of vegan wine or can of vegan beer. All money raised will go to community kitchen Made in Hackney
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