One of my favorite things about food is how it’s constantly evolving based on the movement of people. Tex-Mex cuisine is just one example of a new style of cooking brought about by the mingling of culinary cultures. It’s brought us favorites like Chili Con Carne and Fajitas, but what happens when you put a bunch of people brought up on Texmex on a tropical island in southern Japan?
Part rice bowl and part taco salad, it’s become a defining part of Okinawan cuisine thanks to the American military presence on the southern chain of islands. While i love a traditional Taco Rice, I’ve always wanted a little more crunch. That’s where I got the idea to pan-fry the rice until the bottom surface is as a crisp as a taco shell.
You can’t exactly pick it up, but the rice does form a wonderful golden brown crust on the bottom that tastes like rice cracker. Topped with savory taco meat that’s seasoned with chili powder and soy sauce, as well as cheese, shredded lettuce and tomatoes, Taco Rice is a testament to the ceaseless transformation of food as people migrate around the world.
What are some of your favorite cross-cultural dishes?
- In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, soy sauce, and mirin.
- Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Press the cooked rice into an even layer in the pan. Fry the rice without stirring until crisp and golden brown on the bottom (about 7-12 minutes). Freshly cooked rice will take longer than day-old rice.
- Add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to a frying pan and saute the onions and garlic until they are tender and starting to brown.
- Add the chili powder and fry until the chili powder is fragrant.
- Add the ground beef and brown, using the edge of a spatula or paddle to break up the clumps into small crumbles.
- When the beef is cooked and there is no liquid left in the pan, add the tomato paste mixture and fry until the beef is well coated and crumbly. Remove the pan from the heat.
- When the rice is crisp and brown on one side, sprinkle on the shredded cheese and then top with the beef, and finally the lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro. Serve in the skillet.