When my parents and I were in Japan this autumn, we spent a long weekend in Okinawa, the tropical “Hawaii of Japan.” (For reference, it’s actually closer to Taiwan than it is to the rest of Japan.)
This beautiful, chill island is famous for Orion beer, black cane sugar, and hot springs.
We spent one day in the main city, walking through markets and eating at a particularly memorable tiny vegetarian restaurant tucked away in an alleyway. It was unlike any vegetarian restaurant I have ever been to, albeit it I haven’t been to many. It had this great layout with big windows and open patio doors that lead into a small garden. My dad and I both had an amazing spicy tomato curry with pan fried bitter melon, sweet potato and other interesting root veggies, on a bed of whole grain rice. And my mum had similar veggies on her cold noodle salad, with the noodles made with dragon fruit so they were this beautiful soft pink.
We spent the majority of our time on a smaller island, a 15 minute ferry ride from the main city. We stayed in a lovely old resort that had big pools and endless little lounge areas by the wide expanse of ocean surrounding the entire property. One of the days we rented electric bikes and explored the island. It’s so small that it only took half a day to go around the entire place, including stopping for lunch and climbing a seriously steep hill to get to the famous view point. One of the most beautiful parts of the resort was a hidden away hammock area in the forest. A little path lit with twinkling lights leads you from the beach through some trees into a tiny clearing where there were lanterns and several hammocks, and you could lie in the dark and look up at the sky.
The food was phenomenal, as it always is in Japan. But during our stay, we stumbled across an unexpected Okinawan specialty: Taco Rice. It’s ground beef, salsa, chopped lettuce and guacamole, all staple taco components, but on top of a bed of sticky Japanese rice.
At first I was sceptical. It didn’t sound mind blowing, or even that appealing to me. But I gave it a go, and it’s probably the best thing on this planet.
I made it for Owen pretty much as soon as I got home, and he’s now obsessed. Usually while I’m making dinner, he’ll be reading or working on a paper. But whenever I make Taco Rice, he follows me around the kitchen like a taco-rice obsessed puppy, loitering and peering over my shoulder making yummy noises. It’s actually a good trap because he inevitably ends up helping me.
It quickly became one of our favourite easy meals. It’s perfect for eating while curled up on the sofa watching movies after a long day, because it takes so little time to make.
For two people
250 g ground beef
1 large sweet, white onion
1 ripe avocado
Cilantro to garnish
3 stalks green onion
1 package taco seasoning
Cooked rice (For this recipe I prefer Japanese rice as its got a stickier texture and holds all the other ingredients together nicely)
- Start cooking your rice
- In a large skillet, on medium/high start heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Dice the onion into small cubes, so it will mix in nicely with the ground beef and you won’t just get a mouthful of onion
- Once the oil is heated, toss in the onion with a little salt and pepper and sauté until softened and becomes slightly transparent
- Add ground beef and break up into small pieces while it cooks
- Once cooked all the way through, add the taco flavouring and mix to combine
- Finely chop green onions and add to the ground beef
- Add salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste
- Turn burner down to low and keep warm
- Fill bowls halfway with rice, and on top a generous amount of ground beef.
Then top with salsa, mashed avocado and cilantro.
This is insanely easy, if you start your rice before the beef, it should only take you about 20 minutes. And there’s so many things you can do to change it up or adjust it to your fancy! Next time I’m thinking of getting some bell peppers, jalepenos, and maybe trying ground turkey instead.
Happy eating! x