Tacu tacu is a filling, nutritious lunch plate special. It's thought to have originated as a way for enslaved Africans to make an economical meal out of leftovers, and it is now recognized as an Afro-Peruvian specialty.
Traditional tacu tacu consists of a rice and beans pancake, a thin sábana (sheet) of steak, and a side of fried plantain, all topped off with a fried egg. It may sound complicated, but it's easy to make and worth the effort.
- 5 slices bacon
- 1 onion (medium, chopped)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (or chili paste)
- 1 1/2 cups beans (cooked or canned)
- 1 1/2 cups rice (cooked)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 20 to 25 saltine crackers
- 4 pieces steak (very thin for stir-fry)
- 4 tablespoons butter (divided)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided, plus more for frying the plantains)
- 2 plantains (or bananas)
- 4 eggs
- Garnish: 1/3 cup onions (thinly sliced)
Gather the ingredients.
Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy.
Remove the bacon, saving it for later use, and use the bacon grease left in the pan to sauté the chopped onion with the chile powder or chile paste until soft and golden.
Stir in the beans and mash them with a wooden spoon until they are pretty well broken up. Add the rice and stir.
Cook, stirring, until the rice and beans are heated through. Remove from the heat, let cool, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Process the saltine crackers in a food processor to make fine crumbs. Alternatively, place them in a sealed zip-top bag and pound into crumbs.
Sprinkle a layer of crumbs on a cutting board and place a piece of steak over the crumbs. Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper and pound with a meat mallet until flat and thin. Flip the steak over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with the rest of the steaks.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet until hot. Sauté the steaks for 2 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. Remove from the heat and place the steaks on a plate. Cover them with foil and keep them warm in a low-temperature oven until ready to serve.
Shape the cooled rice and bean mixture into 4 flattened, football-shaped patties. Press them into the remaining saltine cracker crumbs, covering both sides.
Using the same skillet that cooked the steaks (uncleaned), heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the patties, 1 or 2 at a time if necessary, and cook, 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Remove the patties from the heat and cover with foil to keep warm.
Heat about an inch of oil in a clean, tall skillet or pot. Peel the plantains or bananas and slice each in half crosswise. Slice each piece in half lengthwise to make 8 pieces. Fry the slices until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
Pace one of the rice and beans patties on each plate. Top it with a piece of steak. Place a slice of plantain or banana on the side of each plate.
In a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until hot. Crack the eggs into the skillet and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until desired doneness.
Top each piece of steak with a fried egg. Garnish with thinly sliced onions and serve.
Raw Egg Warning
Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.