Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Brunei Town

Adding a twist on a classic

G Daniela Galarza

THE WASHINGTON POST – In 2015, the taco – a staple foodstuff for millions of people; a morning meal, easy lunch, Tuesday dinner and late-night bite – got its own emoji.

The tacos I grew up eating were a multicultural mix: My Puerto Rican dad would add sazón to the meat mixture, and my Iranian mom would put thin french fries atop the stewed filling.

Herbs, shredded iceberg and orange colby were the main garnishes on tacos built into crunchy shells, soft flour tortillas or even squares of lavash. A variation on a crunchy taco substitutes crumbled and sauteed tempeh for the meat. It’s a neat party trick, and one I think you should try for dinner tonight.


30 minutes

Two servings

Inspired by the taco emoji, with its hard taco shell and layers of filling, this variation stars tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh is generally sold in eight-ounce bricks.

Crumble it or shred it on the large holes of a grater, then saute with all of the usual aromatics and spices.

Fill hard taco shells or your choice of tortilla, then top each taco with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream and hot sauce – or however you like them. This also makes a fine taco salad.

NOTES: Instead of tempeh, use a 14-ounce block of extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled, or a pound of lean ground meat.

If using ground beef, lamb or turkey, omit the oil, as the meat will contain enough fat to saute the other ingredients.

To make your own taco seasoning, for one tablespoon: Combine three-quarter teaspoon fine salt, half a teaspoon onion or garlic powder, half a teaspoon ground cumin, half a teaspoon paprika, half a teaspoon ground black pepper and a quarter teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to four days.


– Three tablespoons vegetable or another neutral oil

– Eight ounces tempeh, grated or crumbled

– One small onion (about 5 ounces), preferably yellow, minced or coarsely grated

– Two cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

– Two tablespoons tomato paste

– Two tablespoons water, plus more as needed

– One tablespoon taco seasoning mix, plus more to taste

– Four to six hard taco shells or other tortillas, warmed if desired

– One cup (4 ounces) shredded cheese, preferably colby or a meltable blend, plus more to taste (optional)

– One cup shredded lettuce, preferably iceberg

– One medium tomato, diced

– Sour cream, for serving (optional)

– Chunky salsa, for serving (optional)

– Hot sauce, for serving (optional)


In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the tempeh and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about eight minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute.

Stir in the tomato paste, letting it toast slightly and begin to brown and coat the tempeh, about two minutes.

Stir in the water and taco seasoning. Taste, and adjust seasoning and add more water, if desired. Remove from the heat.

To build the tacos, scoop about a half cup of the tempeh crumbles into each taco shell or tortilla. Divide the cheese, if using, and lettuce and tomatoes among each taco shell.

Top with the sour cream, salsa and hot sauce, if desired, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving (2 to 3 tacos), based on 2 | Calories: 811; Total Fat: 59 g; Saturated Fat: 16 g; Cholesterol: 54 mg; Sodium: 679 mg; Carbohydrates: 39 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 39 g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.