My Abuela's Food

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

We all have our favorite foods made by our mothers or grandmothers. Dishes that bring us comfort or make us nostalgic.

But even better is someone else's grandma's recipes. That's what Luis Martinez wants you to have, his family's recipes from Puerto Rico. At My Abuelas Food, he prepares his grandmother's (abuela in Spanish) best dishes, such as her authentic bean recipe, named after her: el platon de Mery. Mr. Pig, a delicious slow roasted pork nestled with pickles, cheese, mustard and a magic mayo between toasted slices of buttery Cuban bread, is typical of what the men in his family would make.

Chef Luis Martinez

"Every item has a story," he says. "The food is what I grew up with."

He has taken these family recipes and added his own twist. About half of the menu is vegan. This is influenced by his personal experience of becoming a vegetarian more than a decade ago.

He jokes that his family doesn't understand vegetarianism. When he went back to Puerto Rico to visit, "my aunt made pasta salad with ham, and said to just pick it off," he laughs.

He too had to learn how to cook differently, after a lifetime of eating meat and carbs.

The result is a robust menu of foods that taste like meat but aren't: jackfruit used for pork, vegan fried chicken made of chickpea protein. They both mimic pulled meats, he says. And he swears that by swapping impossible beef for ground beef in his empanadillas (a regional word for empanadas), no one can tell the difference.

He receives his food stock locally, the vegan chicken supplied by Zen Foods. The jackfruit roasted the same way as pork, with seasonings. Desserts are made by local company La Dolce Madness, a mother and daughter team from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Pastrami (real pastrami) comes from Philips Barbecue. You can find other authentic foods, like maduros, tostones and yuca - all vegan. Soon, all sides and dipping sauces will be vegan.

When Chef Martinez cooks real meat, he does it entirely by scent, he says, with his employee Pedro providing an occasional taste testing.