A few years ago, Chef Rich Hinojosa of CRUjiente Tacos created a tempura avocado taco ($4) for the Arizona Taco Festival. The savory street taco won Hinojosa first place in the vegetarian category, and now stars at his 70-seat upscale taqueria in Arcadia. Hinojosa dishes up the two-bite taco on a non-GMO corn tortilla spread with griddled cotija cheese and queso fresco “to get the cheese flavor in every bite of the taco.” He tops the caramelized cheese with a house-made black bean purée spiked with jalapeños, tinged with garlic and brightened with chopped fresh cilantro. Next, he layers the disc with tart, house-pickled jalapeños, Fresno chiles and red onions, and adds a crown of aromatic cilantro to add acidity, spice and texture. The taco’s centerpiece, a wedge of avocado that’s been dredged in flour, dipped in tempura batter and fried until puffed and golden brown, is pure mouth candy – buttery and rich, with a crisp but delicate outer shell. The end result: a vegetarian taco that non-vegetarians love, too. As Hinojosa says: “I’m not a vegetarian type of guy, but I had a bite of this and I said, ‘Holy cow, I could eat that every day.’”
— Marilyn Hawkes
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