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Friday, February 10, 2017

So Cal-Style Taco Rice

Taco rice, also know as takoraisu (タコライス), is a bit of a strange dish. You can trace it back to the 1980s, where outside the American military base in Okinawa, restaurants created their own twist on Tex-Mex. Rather than using a tortilla, rice forms the base of this dish. The easiest way for me to describe it: taco rice is like a taco salad without the giant tortilla bowl. I can imagine cutting out the tortillas made it easier and cheap for the restaurants to make something filling for servicemen.

This dish is so popular in Okinawa, you can even find it at chains like KFC and Yoshinoya periodically as a special item! This is probably the most famous Okinawan food outside of Japan.

I love it because it makes a great dish for bentos and one-dish donburi. It also tickles me how many cultures this food passed through on its journey to invention. Tacos predate the Spanish, a truly indigenous dish of Mexico. The delicious and humble taco then jumped the border to America, who adapted it to the American palate and mass produced it with a hard shell, ground meat, and iceberg lettuce. Then it was brought to Okinawa, where the hard shell was discarded in favor of short grained rice. Mexican-American-Okinawan fusion? Nah, it's just good food, no labels needed.

How do I put my spin on it? By introducing some Southern California style! I couldn't resist adding some fresh guacamole, something you wouldn't see in an Okinawan diner due to the cost of avocados, but here in Orange County, avocados are practically on every dish.

Next, some heat! Taco rice typically is very mild, with no hot sauce at all. I couldn't help tweaking it to fit my palate, and I wanted something that made this dish quintessentially Orange County besides avocados. I grabbed a bottle of Gringo Bandito original hot sauce for the honor. It's made here in Orange County, and was created by the lead singer of the Offspring, Dexter Holland, an Orange County native.

It doesn't get more So Cal-stylish than that! But more than hailing from my home stomping grounds, the Gringo Bandito also brought the dish a nice heat and flavor I needed, without being too salty or vinegary. It's quickly become my go-to sauce for taco night!

My challenge to you: how will you make this dish your own?

So Cal-Style Taco Rice
serves 4

1 lbs ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning (+ water as packet recommends)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup diced onions
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup guacamole
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
4 cups of cooked white Japonica rice
Gringo Bandito original to taste

First prep by dicing, shredding, and cooking that rice. Please feel free to cut corners and buy premade guacamole, diced onions, and shredded lettuce. I'm not one to judge when I need to get dinner done in a hurry!

In a medium skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink, crumbling well as it cooks, then add in water and taco seasonings. Follow the instructions on the seasoning packet with the amount of water to add.

To assemble, divide the rice into four serving bowls, then divide the ground beef over the rice. Top with guacamole, onions, iceberg lettuce, diced onions*, and cheese. Drizzle on the hot sauce and serve!

*I like to brown my onions a little bit in the skillet after the beef is done cooking, but Mr. Mochi likes the crunch of raw onions.

I don't think you can go wrong either way! You can also cook the onions in with the ground beef, but I like to serve them on top in case someone doesn't like onions I can simply omit them.

See Also:
Turkey Mole Stacked Enchilada
Mapo Tofu
Hatch Chile Pepperoni Pizza

Disclaimer: Gringo Bandito gave me several hot sauces to try for my blog. However, I was not required to blog about it, let alone paid or pressured to write a positive review. I have also purchased the product before penning this, and will be buying again soon in the future. This review reflects solely my opinions, and the prices are at the time of publication if listed.

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