Taco Rice: A Fusion Favourite from Okinawa!
Mexican food is popular around the world. Americans especially seem to really love Mexican food and at Okinawa the presence of American Military has had a huge influence on the culture and food. This is where taco rice enters the spotlight, a great twist on a longtime favourite.
What is taco rice?
Simply put, it’s ground taco meat, lettuce, and salsa nestled atop a bed of rice. However, different places offer different varieties, often adding cheese, avocado, guacamole, and even classic Japanese favourites such as teriyaki chicken! This can be found at Kijimuna Tacos, with branches at Aeon Mall and on Senaga Island
It’s a wonderfully diverse dish. I even found a sushi version. It’s pretty much exactly how it sounds: a classic sushi roll consisting of seaweed, rice, and taco meat in place of the usual fish. I saw it available at Sushi Roll in American Village (find it here). Amazing. There are also several places on island that do a pizza version. Personally, I think Arin Krin have got it spot on (on Route 58 in Urasoe City, it’s known as the garlic place, find it here), the ingredients are all fresh, it’s cooked to order, it’s a generous portion size and it’s delicious! So if you love both tacos and pizza, you are going to love this combination for sure.
Where can I try it?
Okinawa! You’ll find it everywhere here. Convenience stores like Lawson’s and Family Mart, supermarkets like Kanehide and San A offer cook at home versions, and pretty much any restaurant that vaguely offers Mexican style food (and some that don’t!). The best place I’ve found it so far is a place called Jetta Burger Market in American Village, Mihama (right here). They have an avocado topped variety that is just divine. Right level of spice, lots of crisp, fresh ingredients, and a sizeable portion. You won’t be disappointed.
Where does it come from?
Okinawa! It’s a popular local dish. Charlie’s Tacos was established as the first taco joint on Okinawa in 1956, serving tacos made with rice flour shells. In 1984, Matsuzo Gibo introduced the now infamous taco rice to two of his establishments: King Tacos and Parlor Senri, both located in Kin, Okinawa, just outside a United States Marine Corps base (Camp Hansen). It’s popular with U.S service folk stationed here. In the 1990’s, KFC introduced it as part of their menu in Japan, and Yoshinoya, a chain of gyudon restaurants found across Japan, feature it as a mainstay in their establishments in the Okinawa prefecture.
What does it taste like?
Well... Tacos! But without the shell. The meat is usually very finely ground, seasoned and spiced, and almost always served with lettuce, salsa, and rice. Basically if you love tacos, you’ll love taco rice. I actually enjoy taco rice more, but I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food, so this is a handy in-between meal (my husband loves Mexican food!). It’s a nice blend of two cultures’ food. A simple yet effective dish, with a surprising diversity, as you’ve seen in this article! If ever you needed an excuse to come to Okinawa and try a dish unique to the island, this is it!
So if you find yourself peckish and on Okinawa, why not give it a try?