Tacu Tacu / Peruvian Rice Cakes

The Spanish nobility of the Viceroyalty of Peru had an immense variety of both Spanish and Peruvian indigenous ingredients to work with, and the money and leisure time to experiment with them.

These wealthy Spaniards brought African slaves, who in turn brought their own foods and cooking techniques. As they worked in the Viceroyalty kitchens, African cooks blended their own food culture with the Creole cuisine of the European Spaniards, as well as the indigenous cuisine; and thus developed many of the recipes that Peruvians use today. They contributed immeasurably to the evolution of Peruvian cuisine. The African cooks found clever ways to use leftovers and less desirable foods and cuts of meat. Tacu tacu is a perfect example of the ingenuity and creativity that Africans brought to Peruvian food culture. Their influence on all facets of Peruvian culture cannot be overstated.

Peruvians generally still eat their main meal at midday, and have a very light meal (like our lunch) for nighttime supper. Tacu tacu is a tasty way to use up leftovers: leftover rice and bean purée are combined, fried, and topped with an egg (which is soft, so that the runny yolk can be mixed with the tacu tacu as a sauce). Occasionally it is eaten as a fuller meal, with a breaded beef cutlet (apanado); but usually, it is simply topped with a fried egg. It is frequently eaten this way for breakfast as well.

Ingredients

White rice, long grain                                      1 cup
Chicken or vegetable stock                             2 cups
Butter, unsalted                                                1 Tbsp.
Olive oil, extra virgin                                       1 Tbsp.
Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed          1 can (15 oz.)
Salt pork, very finely diced                             ¼ pound (4 oz.)
Ají amarillo paste                                             ¼ cup
Onion, minced                                                   ½ each
Garlic, minced                                                   3 large cloves
Egg, for frying                                                   4 each

Procedure

  1. Bring stock and butter to a boil; add the rice, cover, and reduce to low heat.
  2. Cook the rice for approximately 15 minutes, or until just tender. Fluff with fork, then set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the salt pork until golden and rendered. Do not drain. Remove pork with a slotted spoon.
  4. Heat olive oil; add onion, and sauté for 4-5 minutes (until golden).
  5. Add the garlic; sauté for 2-3 minutes more.
  6. If the onions become dry, do not add oil; add a bit of water.
  7. Add the ají amarillo paste; sauté 1-2 more minutes.
  8. Add beans, and cook 3-4 more minutes.  Remove from heat.
  9. Add the pork back to the mixture. Crush the mixture with a large spoon to make a paste, then set aside to cool.
  10. When cool, add the rice, and mix well.
  11. Form patties; usually these are the size of a large oblong pancake. (If you like, you can make them the size of a risotto cake or crabcake.)
  12. Fry in about ¼” of oil. Take care in turning; use a fish spatula with a spoon or another spatula behind, and gently flip. Remove from oil; place on plate in warming oven.

Garnish

  1. Fry egg sunny-side up in a tiny bit of oil.
  2. Place egg on top of tacu tacu and serve with salsa criolla on the side.

Tips

  • Tacu tacu can be a very filling, nutritious vegetarian treat (if you leave out the salt pork, and make sure the stock is vegetarian).

Variations

  • The Peruvian beans used in this recipe are usually dry white lima beans that are soaked overnight, then slow-cooked with the salt pork. Admittedly, this is much more flavorful. This is the “short-cut” scratch version.
  • Also, I prefer the flavor and texture of cannellini or white northern beans.
  • This is the scratch version, but it is intended for leftover rice and beans of any kind. Just mash the beans, combine with rice, and fry. Experiment!

tacu tacu, pancake and mini-cake

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Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

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Filed under Culture, Latin American Cuisine, Peru, Peruvian Cuisine

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