Vegan Tamales & Mexico City-Style Turkey: What Echo Park chefs are having for Thanksgiving

Joshua Jose (left) & Hugo Avila

Joshua Jose (left) & Hugo Avila | Connie Acosta


ECHO PARK — Many Echo Park restaurant and cafe chefs will be taking Thanksgiving Day off. But some will be busy in their home kitchens, borrowing the culinary customs of other countries to spice up the traditional turkey dinner or taking a vegan approach to the Thanksgiving feast. Others will simply let others do the work.

Here’s a round up of what some Echo Park chefs will be cooking up for Thanksgiving:

Mexico City-Style Turkey

Hugo Avila has been practicing the Mexican culinary art for 15 years, with much of that time spent at Señor Fish on Sunset Boulevard at Logan Street. Avila is looking forward to a Thanksgiving at home with family, wife and two sons. Glowingly he said, “We’re going to be preparing pavo reñeno (a stuffed turkey).”

Avila marinated the turkey two days before the holiday before stuffing it with ground meat, raisins, pineapple, and walnuts. “Estilo Distrito Federal (Mexico City style),” he said. “Family loves it.”

A Working Thanksgiving

Joshua Jose is a plant-based-food chef for the Tribal Café-Restaurant on Temple Street.  Tribal Cafe will be open on Thanksgiving Day “so people can come and eat their alternative food,” said Jose, who has been part of the raw food movement for eight years. But sometimes his brother or sister will call and say, “‘Hey! We have a party here; bring some food.’ I’m not making the turkey, mucho trabajo! I’ll take a salad so they can digest the turkey,” Jose said.

His relatives will put a “Filipino twist” on the turkey stuffing. “They put lemon grass and ginger, more like an Asian,” he said. “Instead of a suckling pig they turn it into a suckling turkey, tastes delicious– more of an island turkey lechon, soy sauce on top, garnished with an assortment of nuts and pili-nuts for good luck.”

“Some Filipinos bring their rice or coconut cakes, pansit (noodles), Filipino adobo, and lupia (eggrolls).”

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Vegan Tamales

North of Sunset Boulevard on Echo Park Avenue at Delta Street, Seleste Diaz of Chango Café creates a rotating menu every week with different breakfast items. For Thanksgiving, Diaz  will be hanging out with family and bringing two plates: “Brussels sprouts with caramelized almonds and garlic green-beans. I’m a vegan chef: I’m not making turkey this year.

“My mom is making vegan tamales for me. Spicy potatoes with rajas (shredded jalapenos), a green salsa, and a vegan masa (ground corn),” said Diaz.

Taking Holiday From Cooking

Moving down Sunset Boulevard to Sutherland Street at El Compadre Grill and Bar, Eric Guerra has been a chef for three years. For Thanksgiving Guerra, said he will be at home but not in the kitchen.

“When I’m at home I never cook,” said Guerra. “I’ll enjoy the company of my wife and two young children. My wife does the cooking.”

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