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Tacu Tacu (Peruvian Rice and Bean Cake) Recipe

Why It Works

  • A flavor base of (optional) bacon, achiote and ají amarillo pepper pastes, onion, and oregano add complexity and depth to the beans.
  • Cooking the rice with garlic further deepens the flavor of each component, for tacu tacu that’s delicious throughout.

Writing a recipe for tacu tacu might strike many a Peruvian as a somewhat unnecessary act: Tacu tacu is usually whipped up as a way to use leftover rice and beans, and isn’t generally something one sets out to make from scratch. Context is everything, though, and for those of us who don’t have Peruvian leftovers in our fridge with frequency, there’s more of a rationale to outlining the entire process. Once you get the general idea, though, feel free to ditch the recipe and just mix your rice and beans together in a pan with seasonings and fry it into a hearty meal, as that’s the true spirit of tacu tacu.

Given its role as a method of using up leftovers, there are lots of possibilities for variation with tacu tacu. One of the most common beans used is the mayocoba, a creamy beige bean that also goes by the names “canary” and “peruano” and is, as the last of these names suggests, very popular in Peru. But tacu tacu can also be made with lentils and lima beans, and, while less traditional, black beans, which is how my friend Raquel (who taught me to make tacu tacu) prefers it—and given that she’s a phenomenal cook who grew up in the Peruvian city of Trujillo, widely considered one of the country’s gastronomic centers, I fully trust her opinion.

Tacu tacu can be served any number of ways—with a fried egg for breakfast, alongside a piece of pan-seared or fried meat, or with leftover braises, stews, and other saucy dishes. If you’re using a leftover stew, you can even mix a bit of the stew’s juices into the tacu tacu, just to amp up the flavor. Frequently served atop or alongside the tacu tacu is zarza (a.k.a. salsa criolla), a simple salad of sliced red onion with cilantro, lime juice, and some thinly sliced chile pepper (ideally ají amarillo, which you can buy frozen in markets with a Peruvian food section). It adds a welcome bright and punchy note to the otherwise earthy rice-and-bean cake.

Frankly, the basic idea of tacu tacu can be applied to rice and bean leftovers even outside the Peruvian tradition with great results. The dish is just one example of the many rice-and-bean dishes of the African diaspora, from Puerto rican arroz con gandules to Jamaican peas and rice and Southern American hoppin’ John. No matter the source of your rice and beans dinner, there’s always potential for a rice-and-bean pancake breakfast the next day.

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