Had our friend Covid never happened, Yoko and I would be in Kyushu right now, lying on the beach in Okinawa, drinking awamori, enjoying the lackadaisical tropical life. No joke, we were going to spend a month there!
Instead, we're stuck in fire country, between the coldass fog and the horrendous smoke. Tens of thousands have been evacuated here in California – even more on evacuation alert, as the (Insert Acronym Here) Complex Fires are burning through much of the state. Big Basin RIP. As I write this, only 35% of the fires have been contained, having started nearly two weeks ago. WTF!!!
As California burns, major cities across the U.S. continue to protest for social justice, police reform, and human kindness. It all feels so defeating – especially when you turn on the TV and the RNC is being telecasted live at the White House, amidst a sea of bright American flags, featuring very scary conservative speakers with large botox lips. I call this TDA (tone deaf America). Orwell laughs at us from the grave.
So, we take comfort in the little things. I've been gardening (with my 18 month old helper Mion), practicing yoga daily (shoutout to #ywahome!), making a new sourdough starter from scratch (rye flour this time!), and watching the bees in my yard work their butts off so they can prepare for the cold months. During this pandemic, I have dramatically understood how nature giveth, and taketh away. We can not take anything for granted.
But I digress. Back to the tropics, we go! Since we can only go to Okinawa in our minds (at this time, Americans are welcome practically nowhere around the world), I made Taco Rice, to go along with this quarter's Shochu Gumi, featuring bottles from Okinawa and the Amami Islands.
Taco Rice was created in Okinawa in the 80s for the U.S. military community on the island. Yes, there is a complex history in Okinawa with Americans, and I had really looked forward to our trip there, as I have never been and want to better understand the culture of the island. And drink bottomless glasses of awamori, of course!
For now, Okinawa can wait – but Taco Rice shall not! Think "taco night" from your suburban 90s childhood – iceberg lettuce, hard unripe grocery store tomatoes, taco seasoning, shredded Mexican cheese blend, and Pace Picante sauce. Ohhhh yahhh. You know it's janky and you know you love it. Now put all that on rice, and you've got yourself an authentic Okinawan dinner!
2 cups cooked haiga rice
1 lb ground beef (vegetarians, use tofu!)
Half a yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sheets crisp lettuce, shredded
1 tomato, diced (I used a couple cherry tomatoes per person)
1 avocado, sliced or cubed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg per person
1 cup a mild shredded cheese (a generic "Mexican blend" will work well, or mozzarella)
1. Cook rice
2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add onions and garlic. Stir occasionally so it does not burn, about 5-7 minutes, until onions are transluscent.
3. While the onions are cooking, put together the sauce ingredients.
3. Once onions are cooked, add the beef.
4. When beef is cooked, add the onions back in, and the sauce mixture.
5. Stir and turn off heat.
6. Fry an egg to your family's preference. I like my eggs over easy, but I'm not good at the flip. So here's what I do – a trick from my mom!
Heat up some oil or butter in a pan. When hot, break in an egg or two. For this dish, one egg per person.
When the bottom of the eggs start to brown, add about a tablespoon of water per egg into the pan, and cover.
Once the water has evaporated, you're done!
7. Now you're ready to plate! Scoop rice into a bowl, add meat on top, then layer on lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and lay over the egg.
Enjoy alongside an awamori or kokuto shochu!
Here's a fun throwback post when Yoko went to have taco rice on Ishigaki Island in 2007. It's drowning in red sauce! Yoko would agree this recipe is much better.