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Recipes, Unusual Foods

Cal-Mex Riceballs

In my last post on riceballs, I suggested the possibility of making riceballs out of tomato rice and filling them with avocado for a sort of Tex-Mex (Cal-Mex?) flavor. To the riceball purist, this would certainly be an abomination, but to me it sounds delicious – mostly because, as a Californian living in Japan, I miss Mexican food like nothing else. With some practice, I can now make flour tortillas (thank you x 1,000,000, Homesick Texan) and a passable pico de gallo on my own, but while my imitations do effectively stave off my cravings, they pale in comparison to the flavor of home. In part this is a result of my cooking skills, but it’s also a matter of ingredients. Masa harina and fresh cilantro are just not widely available here.

However! During my trip to Kansai last weekend, we made a stop at Meida-ya, an import store, where I managed to get my hands on some cilantro. That intoxicating smell is like nothing else. I suppose that’s why some people don’t care for it. I made quesadillas, black bean chili, tomato rice and delicious salsa, and enjoyed the best meal I’ve made for myself since moving here. Such bliss has not been known by the likes of man.

Black bean chili, tomato rice, fresh salsa and chicken quesadillas with Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese, garnished with avocado and plain yogurt.

To my great delight, when I was done eating all I could possibly eat, I still had quite a few leftovers, which I am still eating. But that night, I used some remaining meat, avocado and rice to test out my Cal-Mex riceball idea. The seductive aroma of cilantro might have impaired my judgment, but I really thought that they came out pretty good. If you’re not squeamish about mixing influences in your cooking, I hope you’ll give them a try!

Note: When making riceballs, adding extra liquid (in this case, the tomatoes) to the rice always poses the risk of making it too moist to work with. It worked okay for me, but if you choose to try this out, I’d appreciate if you let me know how it goes.

Cal-Mex Riceballs



Tomato Rice:

  • 1 cup rice + appropriate amount of water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 100 g canned cut tomatoes, drained
  • 1 teaspoon white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 cup avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 100 grams ground chicken (or other meat)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/4 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • pinch of habanero powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

    With a green salad, these riceballs make a good cold lunch food.


  1. Cook rice as per directions.
  2. Chop avocado, sprinkle with lime juice and set aside.
  3. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add onion and sauté until soft. Add ground meat, and cook until no longer pink. Add lime, cilantro, habanero powder and salt and pepper, and combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until soft.
  5. Add rice and tomato to pan and combine thoroughly over low heat. Stir regularly with a heatproof spatula.
  6. Continue to cook until any liquid has disappeared and rice is dry enough to stick together, about 5 minutes. Add seasonings and stir thoroughly.
  7. Prepare a bowl of cold water.
  8. With wet hands, scoop a manageable amount of rice into your palms and form it into a ball.
  9. With your fingers, make an indent in the center of the rice ball. Press in 1-2 tablespoons of avocado and/or cooked ground meat.
  10. Work the rice so that it covers the filling, and reform it into a ball or a triangle (see Yakionigiri for more directions on how to do this).
  11. Eat immediately, or wrap in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to a day.


3 thoughts on “Cal-Mex Riceballs

  1. If you can make the trip to Takaoka, the Jusco at the big AEON mall usually has cilantro.

    Posted by Paulie | July 20, 2011, 8:21 am
    • Wow! That makes me wonder if my local AEON has it, too. If not, Takaoka’s not a far trip. Excellent…

      Posted by cheruko | July 20, 2011, 8:33 am
      • the only Aeon I’ve seen it at is Takaoka. Daiwa’s basement veggie shop used to have it or you could ask them to order it. Also, the seeds are available at many garden shops. It is easy to grow on a balcony. I’ve even grown it through the winter–There is a Mexican restaurant in Uchinada. I haven’t tried it yet:

        — a fellow Californian who misses Mexican food……

        Posted by Paulie | July 21, 2011, 8:08 am

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