Laura Hayes
Laura Hayes

Where to Get It: Pow Pow, 1253 H St. NE

Price: $9 regular/$11 large

What It Is: A rainbow-colored, flavor-blasted meal that straddles Caribbean and Asian cuisine. It features vegan pork seitan fried in the style of Japanese pork katsu, grilled pineapple “kimchi,” tomato, carrots, bean sprouts, pickled onions, and scallions all swirled in a sticky house-made sweet and sour sauce. All of these ingredients sit atop a mix of greens and a chewy trio of grains: white jasmine rice, black forbidden rice, and quinoa. 

The Story: Co-owner Shaun Sharkey’s wife Margaux Riccio is Pow Pow’s ace in the hole. Though not a vegan, she started creating meat-free patties from scratch for her own consumption. Sharkey and co-owner John Yamashita noticed that they were spot on in flavor and texture and decided to serve them.

Unlike some places that pull from packaging, Riccio makes the vegan proteins once a week. “Our little niche here is catering to both meat eaters and vegans,” Sharkey says. “Vegan people worry about cross contamination. We take it so seriously.” The Natalie Porkman is a play on vegan actress Natalie Portman’s name. 

Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Natalie Portman has probably never indulged in anything fried, but if she wanted to make the dietary leap, her namesake dish at Pow Pow wouldn’t be a bad option. The texture of the “pork” is on point, the grilled pineapple is a tropical treat, and the mix of grains is aromatic. Overdressed lettuce and too-sharp onions (perhaps they didn’t pickle long enough to tame the sting) are the only negatives.