Loco Moco tots

Loco Moco Tots

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Summer is here! Every year, for the first week of July, there is an event called the Calgary Stampede which attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. One of the biggest attractions for the Calgary Stampede, aside from the rodeo, is the amazing and incredible midway food that gets bolder and more outrageous every year. If you want to have a look at what I mean, here is the 2019 offerings.

Since COVID has put a stop to many of our favourite activities, including events like the Calgary Stampede, I wanted to create a dish reminiscent of the Stampede spirit while being true to myself. As a Stampede dish, there were a few important things to consider:

  1. It has to be a midway dish – meaning that it has to be somewhat portable, easy to eat with at most, a fork.
  2. It has to be original – ‘nuff said.
  3. It has to have the ‘Wow’ factor – crispy skin, a tasty sauce, cheesy, melty, stacked, packed, soaked, smothered… you know what I mean.
  4. It has to be Instagrammable – photogenic for the ‘gram.

So I came up with the best adaptation, based on a classic Hawaiian rice dish that is a huge favourite: Loco Moco.

For anyone that is not familiar with the Hawaiian classic dish, it consists of a base of rice, topped with a burger patty (or however many you can eat), brown gravy, and a fried egg. What’s not to like?

In order to make it portable, I decided to make it with tater tots instead of rice. In place of the burger patty, which would require a knife to cut it, I opted to make ‘tot-sized’ beef balls. The gravy is pretty straight forward, but this time, I made it with a Japanese Hayashi rice mix which comes in a roux block, just like the Japanese curry blocks. Hayashi rice is a braised beef on rice with a rich Demi-glacé type of sauce. It’s simply tasty as hell so why not? Finish it all off with a fried egg, and we got a dish fit for the Stampede. Are you ready?

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You will need:

  • Tater tots
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 box Hayashi Rice mix
  • 1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • a couple tablespoons of oil
  • nori furikake or chopped scallions (or both)

Start by cooking your tater tots the way you like. For most, that would be putting them in a single layer on a sheet pan and baking on 450F for 20-25minutes. For others, it’s deep frying in 350F oil for 3 minutes. If you are going the deep fry route, do this after the meatballs and gravy are done.

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper, then forming it into ‘tot-sized’ meatballs. Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the meatballs and sear them until no longer pink. Add the onions and continue to cook until the onions turn translucent (about 5 minutes). At this point, add about 400ml of water to the pan, cover and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes. This will cook the meatballs all the way through.

Once the 5 minutes are up, remove the lid and add one cube of the Hayashi Rice mix (half the box). Break up the block and stir to dissolve. Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened. Once that’s done, remove from heat and set aside.

At this time, your baked tots are almost ready. Take the few minutes to fry the eggs the way you like them.

Assembly is easy. Start with the tots, top with gravy and meatballs, finishing with the fried egg. Garnish with furikake and scallions and grab a fork. Don’t forget to take a few pics for the ‘gram.