U.S. military presence in Okinawa has always been highly contested by the locals, but one good thing that came of the arrangement is taco rice. As legend has it, the dish was created by the owner of an eatery in Kin, Okinawa, which was frequented by hungry American servicemen. Tacos were an American favorite, but shells were hard to come by and not very filling. The restaurant began to pile taco fillings on a bed of sticky white rice, which was both hearty and economical. Thus, taco rice was born. It’s now an island staple that’s become popular throughout the rest of the nation as well.
Taco rice is often served without tomatoes or salsa, so do as you please. If you’re in a fancy mood, roast your own salsa. Or don’t.
OKINAWAN TACO RICE for two
1 cup of sticky white rice, cooked
1 pound of ground beef
Taco seasoning (see below)
1/2 cup of water or beef broth
Two big handfulls of shredded lettuce (I used Boston, but Iceberg is traditional)
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of cornstarch
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
Combine spices for the taco seasoning. Pour a small glug of oil into a pan and heat on medium high heat. Brown the beef for about five minutes, stirring to break it up. Add the taco seasoning and the water or broth. Stir to combine and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about three minutes.
To serve, divide rice between two bowls and top with cheese, beef, salsa, lettuce, and chopped tomatoes.