Essential T: The Tlayudas at Tlayuda L.A. Are Vegetarian-Friendly (and Delicious)

The city’s first tlayuda specialist whips up the Oaxacan specialty with a Californian twist
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There are exciting things to come here in Oaxacalifornia, as newly minted restaurateurs from our sizable Oaxacan population move on from the traditional cuisine of the fondas, market stands, and streets of the Valles Centrales to updated concepts. Dozens of great Oaxacan restaurants have sprang up for mole, molotes, memelas, goat barbacoa, tamales, and regional stews called guisados—and of course, tlayudas. Those manhole-cover-sized, ultra-thin corn tortillas are made by artisans in Oaxaca, and shipped to Los Angeles for our restaurants and food trucks to prepare one of the region’s most coveted street foods.

But vegans beware, the tlayuda generally begins with a proposition that is unapproachable for non-meat-eaters: a generous smear of unrefined pork lard known as asiento lays the foundation for the whole tortilla-wrapped shebang. The asiento adds an intense layer of flavor to support the pureed black beans, Oaxacan cheese, avocado, lettuce, onions, and sliced tomato and finally the Oaxacan trinity of meats: chorizo, tasajo (beef jerky), and cecina (pork in adobo). Well, vegetarians and vegans can now get their hands (yes, you’ll need both hands) on a Oaxacan tlayuda at the three-month-old Oaxacan take-out and café, Tlayuda L.A.

Tlayuda L.A. prepares their tlayudas with an extra flavor kick in the black beans to compensate for the asiento to make a delicious vegetarian tlayuda (that can even be made to accommodate vegans!). There are the regular tlayuda options as well of cecina, tasajo, chorizo or up to all three—all are prepared without asiento— as well as tacos, mole negro oaxaqueño and other traditional Oaxacan dishes.

The tacos lean towards a Mexican-American style—the burritos, too—and many Oaxacans might tell you there’s no tlayuda without asiento. But tlayudas for everyone makes a lot of sense here in Oaxcalifornia.

Tlayuda LA, 5450 Santa Monica Blvd, East Hollywood, (213) 261-4667, tlayudala.com