Monday, January 28, 2013

Recipe Envy: Mad Mex Tofu Tacos

When tex-mex calls my name, I answer with a trip to Mad Mex.

Mad Mex, a small, Pittsburgh-based chain that's part of the Big Burrito restaurant powerhouse, cooks up some mighty fine tex-mex this side of the mason-dixon line, and certainly this side of the Appalachians.  Offering much more than tacos, fajitas and quesadillas, Mad Mex serves what I'd call tex-mex "fusion," but in a totally unpretentious way.  They start with familiar fare - think tacos, fajitas and quesadillas, plus their trademark big-as-your-face burritos - and freshen it up considerably.  They harbor a strong commitment to local, fresh ingredients (including an impressive list of local brews by bottle and draft), steal a few influences from Californian cuisine, offer vegetarian and vegan friendly cutomizations and toss in some totally funky food twists.

Mad Mex's tofu tacos ("Herb o’vore’s Tofu tacos") exemplify that last point.  I tasted these for the first time a few weeks ago and they hooked me instantly.  I'll certainly be back for more, but in the meantime, I embarked on a mission to recreate these tasty tacos at home. 

Their Way

Max Mex tosses crispy fried tofu in a soy-ginger sauce, nestles it in some warm tortillas, tops with bean sprouts, sliced avocado, cilantro and an tomatillo-avocado salsa and serves it all alongside rice, beans, pico de gallo and sour cream.

May Way

Most notably, I swapped tofu for tempeh.  Naturally firmer than tofu, thanks to fermentation, I skipped the frying process and first marinated the diced tempeh in a citrus-soy sauce and before finishing them in the wok.  In the topping department, I combined a few elements Max Mex uses separately into a spicy, avocado slaw.  I used the slaw as my main taco topper, along with my favorite jarred green salsa and some alfalfa sprouts.

The Recipe

Note: I made this recipe a bit on the fly, so the following is my best approximation of measurements and method.  Feel free to follow your gut, taste along the way and do what you like best!


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus more for dressing
  • 1/8 teaspoon sriracha, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 8 oz. tempeh, sliced lengthwise then crosswise into approximately once inch pieces
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage (I used the pre-shredded kind available in the produce section)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled sliced jalapenos
  • Few handfuls cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Corn tortillas
  • Alfalfa sprouts, for serving
  • Green salsa, for serving


Combine the soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice, sriracha, sesame seed oil and honey, mixing until smooth and incorporated. Place the diced tempeh in a plastic storage bag or shallow rimmed dish and pour in soy mixture.  Seal the bag (if using) and let marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour, turning the tempeh (or flipping the bag) half way through.

While tempeh is marinating, make the slaw:

In a medium bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, avocado, pickled jalapenos and cilantro.  Dress with a drizzle of lime juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss to combine the slaw and dressing, slightly mashing some of the avocado to add some creaminess to the dressing, but leaving most pieces whole.  If the slaw is too dry, add more lime juice and olive oil as needed.

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large nonstick pan over medium high heat.  Add tempeh and stir fry until dark golden brown, 5-8 minutes.

While tempeh is cooking, wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave until warm, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Assemble tacos by placing three pieces tempeh in a tortilla and topping with the avocado slaw, alfalfa sprouts and green salsa.

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1 comment:

  1. I am a Pittsburgh Native and this is my favorite meal of the area, My husband and I moved to upstate new york a few months ago and I have been craving this! Thank you for the remake, this will be our dinner TONIGHT!