We’re craving these vegan nachos right now

Wednesday night is taco night at The Bite in River Market, and every single table is full. Patrons are happily enjoying colorful plates of plant-based nachos, pozole and ceviche, chatting with one another, laughing like they’re all in on a good secret.

Taqueria Vegana has been hosted once a week at City Market sandwich shop The Bite since May. Every week, the crowd grows.

Drew Clark has worked full time with The Bite for over a year and has been vegan for the past nine months (he’s been a vegetarian since childhood). He doesn’t have much in the way of formal kitchen training, he says, but working alongside chef-owner Carlos Mortera has been essential to creating vegan proteins.

“I don’t have a great frame of reference for what meat should taste like,” Clark says. “I can use my other senses — smell and texture — but not taste, so having Carlos is really helpful. He helps me figure out what I’m missing flavor-wise.”

Clark makes the proteins from scratch out of dehydrated bean curd from Asian markets, which is made from the gelatin-like film layer that forms on top of soy milk when it’s
being made.

“Dehydrated bean curd has zero flavor, so whatever you rehydrate it with will soak that up like a sponge,” he says.

Clark’s creations aren’t just convincing imitations. They’re delicious. And for guests receiving a pile of fried tortilla chips topped with shredded “super chicken,” vegan (tofu-based) nacho cheese, beans, cilantro, pickled onions, radish, candied jalapenos and a vegan (tofu-based) crema, they’re the perfect answer to a junk food craving.

“My thinking behind doing this is, as a vegan, if I go out for a meal, what I crave is junk food,” Clark says. “I want something indulgent and fatty and comforting. I don’t necessarily want to get a big bowl of quinoa and vegetables.”

GO: Taqueria Vegana at The Bite in City Market, 23 E. Third St., Kansas City, Mo. thebitekc.co. Open 5-8 pm Wednesdays.

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