Versions of this casual dish are found throughout Peru, often crowned with a steak and a fried egg. Cooks flip the mixture of beans and rice frequently while it fries so that the exterior develops a crisp, browned crust. We’ve simplified the technique, but have no fear—you will still end up with lots of delectable crunchy bits. Although it is served here as a side dish, tacu tacu also makes a satisfying vegetarian supper alongside a green salad.
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- 1 cup dried brown lentils (7 oz)
- 7 1/4 cups water, divided
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic, divided
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon bottled ají amarillo or ají mirasol paste (sometimes labeled “crema”)
Bring lentils, 5 cups water, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 12 to 25 minutes (depending on age of lentils). Drain, then transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, cook 1 tsp garlic in 1 Tbsp oil in another heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add remaining 2 1/4 cups water and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil, then cook, covered, over low heat 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Stir rice from top to bottom with a rubber spatula, then stir into lentils.
While rice stands, sauté onion and remaining tsp garlic in 1 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until onion is golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in chile paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir onion mixture into rice mixture.
Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in skillet over medium heat until hot. Add rice mixture and fry, gently flattening with a spatula, until a golden-brown crust forms on underside, about 3 minutes. Stir rice and fry, flattening it, until a crust forms on underside again, about 3 minutes more. Repeat frying and stirring until bits of crust are dispersed throughout, about 9 minutes more (about 15 minutes total frying time).