Some people think Latin Americans eat nothing but beans and rice. We do eat lots of other stuff but yes, beans and rice are a culinary staple from Mexico to Chile, thanks to our Spanish conquerors.
In Peru, tacu tacu is the most popular (and tasty) combination of those two ingredients. It’s been around for a while, apparently the slaves came up with the dish when reheating leftover beans and rice for breakfast. Of course there were no microwave ovens back then, so the mixture was reheated in a pan, achieving a wonderful crust.
If I’m not mistaken, traditional tacu tacu is made with canario beans, which don’t exist in Australia. Not to worry, you can use whatever beans or legumes you want. Personally, I like the taste and texture of borlotis. Trendy Peruvian chefs nowadays are using a variety of exotic ingredients and other existing dishes to make tacu tacu. The sky is the limit.
What to eat tacu tacu with? On its own it’s kind of dry, so salsa criolla (thinly sliced red onions with lime juice, salt and chopped coriander) on the side is a must.
Add a fried egg on top to boost the protein content. Add fried plantains and you’ve got tacu tacu a lo pobre (poor man’s tacu tacu). Forget about the fried egg and plantain and serve it with a minute steak, a chicken schnitzel, seafood, or, as we did this time, grilled fish.
Tacu tacu (Peruvian-style rice and beans)
Yield: 4 servings
This recipe is best started the day before, but can be done in one go.
Tacu tacu served with grilled fish and salsa criolla
- 2 cups borloti beans (or any other kind), soaked for at least 8 hours
- 3-4 tablespoons oil
- 1 red onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1-2 teaspoons ají amarillo (or any other chilli, to taste)
- 50 grams bacon (optional)
- 1 cup white rice
- dried oregano
- 1-2 teaspoons honey (optional)
- olive oil, to serve
- Drain and rinse beans. Put in pot with water, bring to a boil. Turn heat to low.
- Chop bacon in small squares and put in pot with beans and water. Simmer until beans are very soft.
- While beans are cooking, mince garlic cloves and onion.
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan over low heat, add half an onion, half of the garlic and chilli and cook for 10 minutes. This is called aderezo. Reserve.
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pot over low heat, add the other half of the garlic until lightly browned.
- Add rice, stir to coat with oil and garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add 1.5 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until cooked.
- When the beans are ready, add the reserved aderezo (see step 4) and season with salt and pepper.
- If you’re making this recipe in two days, stop here and refrigerate the beans, rice and reserved half onion.
- When ready to assemble, mix rice and beans, add honey if you want, and heat if chilled.
- Heat 1-2 teaspoons of oil in a pan (a wok works best) over low heat, add a fourth of the reserved chopped onion and about a teaspoon of oregano, cook until soft.
- Add a fourth of the bean/rice mixture to the edge of the pan, in order to shape it like a rugby ball. Wait a couple of minutes so that it browns in the bottom. Then, if you’re up for it, start shaping the rugby ball by tossing the pan/wok like a seasoned chef. If it sounds too challenging, use a spatula or plate to help you turn the tacu tacu. The idea is that you get a nice brown crust all over the rugby ball.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top and your accompaniments of choice.