Thursday, September 27, 2012

Central American menus - Day 1 - Hilachas, Guatemalan rice, Tostones

One day about a week ago when I was making my meal plan, I had this great idea. Since my 5 year old son is Guatemalan, I thought I'd make an entire week of Guatemalan food. I'm not sure if he really appreciated it or not but he tried everything.
So when I did some research online I found it difficult to find what things were truly from Guatemala. So this ended up being a central american kind of week.
I don't think I've spent so much time in the kitchen cooking or used my rice cooker so much in one week. Everything turned out good. Even the picky preschoolers didn't complain too much with the new food. Needless to say, For this week, I quickly did a few freezer meals on monday so I'm not in the kitchen all week again! 
I wanted to blog about it because I'm not sure the people I know really know what the food is like there. Of course they have their fair share of junk food like us but here is a sampling of what I could find. I will definitely make some of these meals again but I doubt I'll do a full week of it.
This first one is like a beef stew. I have to say, that I really messed it up the first night and started again the next day. I rarely cook with beef and when I do it's usually ground beef. This recipe calls for flank steak and I never do steak because I don't really care for it. So I just followed the recipe and the meat came out so tough that I couldn't even chew it! Ugh! I also used a skirt steak the first time. I really don't know the differences in steak and I don't really care since I don't like it. But the rest of my family loves it so I tried it. I changed the recipe to something I know I could do - the slow cooker. It turned out really well this way for me.
The kids loved the hilachas with the rice and tostones. 
Note- that I didn't make this spicy since my son doesn't like spicy food. I used one jalapeno and it was really spicy at all.
Hilachas (Guatemalan Shredded Beef in Tomato-Tomatillo Sauce)
Adapted from

1 1/2 lbs beef flank steak
3 cups water
2-3 T oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 cup tomatillos, chopped
2 -3 guajillo chilies, warmed over a flame, seeded and chopped (or can use jalapenos)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 -3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 handfuls cilantro, chopped
Place the beef, water and a big pinch of salt into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until cook through. Remove the beef to a bowl, reserving the broth, and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, shred the beef with your fingers and set aside.
 While the beef is simmering, place the onion, tomatoes, tomatillos and chiles in a food processor or blender and puree, adding a little water if necessary. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add the onion-tomato puree and simmer until the puree is cooked down and darkens somewhat in color, about 10 minutes. Do not burn.
Add the shredded beef and about 3 cups of the broth to the onion-tomato puree and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
Stir in the potatoes, carrots and a little more broth or water if necessary Simmer until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce. Transfer to serving dish and top with cilantro.
Serves 6-8.
Arroz Guatemalteco

2 cups white rice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups mixed vegetables ( carrots, celery, sweet red peppers and peas)
4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
salt and pepper
Saute rice in oil until rice has absorbed the oil but has not changed color. Add vegetables, salt and pepper, and 4 C of broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has been absorbed about 20 minutes.
Or if using a rice cooker, Saute rice as directed, then add all ingredients to the rice cooker and cook according to cooker directions.
Tostones (Fried Plantains)
I actually make these often. We love them. Plantains are a starchy side to any meal. Below is a picture of a ripe plantain. For this recipe I like to use unripe ones - the ones that are still green. (I just forgot to take a picture of it before I made them!) The green ones aren't sweet like ripe ones. They taste more like a potato, if I have to describe it. Later on in the week, I will make baked plantains with a ripe one. It's ok to use the yellow ones or the black ones. The more black they are, the sweeter they are.
Also, as you can see, I kinda burnt these that I made. I tend to do that when I have too many things going on at once. They were still good!

2 unripe plantains
1/2 cup oil

Peel the plantains and cut 1-inch slices. Heat oil in a pan and fry plantains on each side until golden. Remove from pan and let them drain on paper towel. Flatten each piece with a glass until about 1/3-inch thick. Fry each on both sides until golden. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.


  1. Cooking hilachas tonight. Made some tacos al pastor yesterday, they are very tasty as well.

  2. Cooking hilachas tonight. Made some tacos al pastor yesterday, they are very tasty as well.