Malo's Ground Beef and Pickle Taco

Great food sometimes comes from a mix of kitchen confidence and creative improvisation.

For example, take the alleged origins of modern day mayonnaise. As one story is told, when the Mediterranean island port-city of Mahón was captured in 1756, a celebration meal was in order. A traditional sauce was usually made of cream and eggs, but the chef in charge had no cream and substituted olive oil. The sauce was eventually tweaked into what is known today as mayonnaise.

Keeping with a theme: during his wife's pregnancy, in which she lost her appetite, Alfredo di Lelio in 1914 headed to the kitchen and created the eponymous sauce that these days is a pasta menu staple.

Now fast forward to a rainy day in 1982. A young Robert Luna is sitting the kitchen of his East L.A. home, savoring his mom's burger: ground sirloin, cheddar cheese, kosher dill pickles, a spread of sour cream and mayonnaise and serve it on wheat bread. But there's one problem: no bread.

"I was hungry, and being the little angel that I was, started to throw a massive tantrum," he explained. "My mother, being the great chef she is, put everything in a crispy fried taco and it was delicious! And that is how her famous Ground Beef and Pickle Taco was born."

Since 2003 when Luna's restaurant Malo opened in Silver Lake, the taco has become most popular dish. The same already goes in downtown Los Angeles at Mas Malo, which opened earlier this month. Luna shares his recipe below:

Ground Beef and Pickle Taco

Ingredients

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 boiled russet potatoes (cut into small dices)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 8 oz cheddar cheese grated
  • Small jar pickle chips
  • Soft Corn tortillas

Instructions

1. Sauté ground beef in olive oil (1/4 cup oil)
2. Add all the dry spices and cook 5 minutes add cooked diced potatoes.
Continue to cook 8-10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat let cool on counter 30 minutes
4. Heat corn tortillas and fill them with the beef and potato mixture
5. Close both ends with a tooth pick.
6. Fry them in canola oil about 2 minutes on each side
7. Once cooked, place them on a paper towel, remove toothpicks and open
8. Add cheddar cheese and kosher pickle chips.

Then...

"Ok you're done. Now eat," instructs Luna.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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