Originally created for convenience due to surplus of military rations of packaged taco seasoning and salsa, taco rice is now one of Okinawa’s most iconic dishes. Variations in Okinawa and around Japan range from budget through to gourmet; this is my version.






Skill level

Average: 3.5 (259 votes)


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 300 g minced beef
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 4 g packet instant dashi, dissolved in
  • 300 ml hot water, or 300 ml chicken stock
  • 220 g (1 cup) short-grain rice
  • 2 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 80 g coarsely grated haloumi or cheddar


Hot salsa

  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ red onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp koregusu (see Note), or chilli vodka or chilli vinegar

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Drink match Suntory Magnum Dry Beer, Japan (500 ml, $3.50)

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mince and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 6 minutes or until browned. Add soy, spices and oregano, then add ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper, and stir until combined. Add enough dashi or stock to cover mince, then cover with a cartouche (see Note). Simmer for 15 minutes, remove cartouche and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to packet instructions. To make hot salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, arrange hot rice on serving plates and spoon over meat sauce. Top with lettuce, cheese and a generous amount of salsa.


• a cartouche is a paper lid placed directly on the surface of food to slow down the reduction of moisture in cooking. Take a square sheet of baking paper slightly larger than your pan, and fold in half on its diagonal. Repeat twice to make a small triangle. Holding the inner point of the edge of the paper where it reaches the edge of the pan. Unfold paper for your cartouche.
• Koregusu is awamori infused with chilli. It’s available from Japanese and Asian food shops.



Photography Chris Chen


As seen in Feast magazine, November 2013, Issue 26.