Taco rice

I was a little ambitious and selected two recipes to make for the cookbook club. The second recipe was Taco Rice. The idea of Mexican merging with Japanese (some much-loved cuisines of mine) sounded very appealing to me and I wasn’t disappointed. Although it was a little on the spicy side, I really enjoyed this dish and it got a thumbs up from the other member of the house who is probably a better test of whether it’s regular-family-meal friendly. Taco rice was relatively easy to make as well so that earned it extra points.

Spice mix

The first step is to make the spice mix by combining all the ingredients. Beware with the hot paprika. It must be super light cause it set me off on a sneezing attack as soon as I opened the packet. It’s a pretty assortment of spices though and creates a lovely aroma when they’re all mixed together.

Start the meat by browning it in a large saucepan. Make sure you break up any chunks so you get a nice even mince.

Drain off any excess liquid then add the spice mix, soy sauce and  mentsuyu to the pot and stir it through. I discovered that you can’t actually buy mentsuyu. It must be made with a combination of dashi and soy sauce. The lady at the Asian grocer gave me a Japanese stock base that she said was very close to mentsuyu so I substituted with that. I would tell you what it is but there’s no English on the bottle and my Japanese translation skills are non-existent.

Reduce the pot to a simmer and cover with a cartouche which is a piece of baking paper cut to tightly cover the top of the mixture and trap the moisture. I made this while watching Masterchef. George’s cartouch that he made that night was quite different to mine. His had a hole in the middle and was more like a half-opened cone. I’m not sure what the correct method is but this is the way I’ve always done it. Leave the mince mixture to simmer away under its cartouche for 20 minutes.


While the mince mixture is simmering, make the salsa. Chop the tomatoes into quarters and combine them with the sugar, salt, parsley, red onion and vinegar then put it in the fridge to let the flavours develop. I made mine before anything else so it would be nice and flavoursome.

This is what the mince should look like after its cartouche-covered simmering.

Layer one

To assemble the taco rice bowls, start with the cooked Japanese rice. The recipe says to use 3 cups of cooked rice. I thought this was a bit much for two people so I only used one. The extra rice probably would have balanced the spice but even with the smaller amount of rice it was a very big dish. I think it would serve 4 people rather than the 2-3 stated in the recipe.

Layer two

The next layer is the mince. Layer it up and don’t forget the sauce.

Layers three and four

Frame the bowls with the shredded lettuce (I used some rocket I had growing) and then sprinkle with grated cheese.

The final layer

Finish the taco rice with the tomato salsa.

Taco rice

Adam says to eat it as is in the layers or mix it all together. I went for option two. Enjoy!

Taco rice - the cookbook club
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 300g (11oz) beef mince
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) mentsuyu
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce to serve
  • 2 cup grated cheddar cheese to serve
  • Spice mix
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp hot paprika
  • ¼ tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • Fresh salsa
  • 50g (2oz) cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt flakes
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ red onion sliced
  1. Make the spice mix by mixing all the ingredients together.
  2. Heat the oil in a decent-sized saucepan and add the mince. Cook it until it has all browned making sure to break up any chunks. Drain off any excess liquid then add the spices, soy sauce and mentsuyu. Cover the top of the mince with a cartouch, reduce the heat and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. While the mince is simmering make the salsa by combining all the ingredients. It needs to rest for at least 20 minutes for the flavours to develop. You can make it before you start the mince if you prefer.
  4. Make the taco rice bowls starting with a layer of rice (I cooked mine in the rice cooker with a little extra water than used for regular rice). Spoon the mince and sauce over the rice, surround it with the lettuce then sprinkle with the cheese. Finish it off with the tomato salsa.
  5. I think it's best all mixed up but feel free to be neat and eat it in layers.