Bolivian Majadito de Charque: Sloppy Rice with Pulled Beef
(Santa Cruz, Bolivia)
Majao de charque (also known as majadito de charque) is a traditional Bolivian meal cooked in the Eastern states of Beni and Santa Cruz, in the hot, humid tropics of Bolivia. Originally many decades ago, this dish was cooked outdoors in a clay pot, over an open fire. Majao is a type of very moist rice mixed with pulled beef jerky (charque), fried sweet plantains, and fried eggs. Some families also serve this with a side of boiled or fried yucca root (also known as manioc).
Before electricity and refrigeration existed, our great grandmothers used to preserve meat by cutting it into very thin slices, covering and rubbing it in a lot of salt, and hanging it high up in a tree where they left it for a few hours to a few days, depending on the weather, until it had completely dried up. In the United States, this is how pemmican (which later became known as jerky) was made by native Americans. Meat that is preserved in this way can be kept for weeks or months before using.
Today, in Bolivia, preserving meat with salt and hanging it up to dry is still very common in the more remote rural areas of the country where there is still little or no electricity. It is not uncommon, when traveling through small villages, to see charque hanging from tree limbs or clotheslines.
In order to cook the meat, it is placed into a bowl of water for several hours or overnight until it softens again. The meat, now flexible and moist again, is then torn or pulled apart (shredded or jerked) into small pieces for cooking. It's what we would call pulled beef in English.
Charque is jerky and for this majao de charque recipe, we will be following the same steps our ancestors took to cook this meal. However, one can also simply use regular beef, cook or grill it, and then pull it apart into small pieces. In Bolivia, majadito is also sometimes served with chicken, pork or duck, all made in a similar manner so feel free to substitute your preferred meat when you cook this dish; however, to experience an authentic Bolivian tradition, you'll need to do the following:
1/2 pound of charque (beef jerky) 2 cups of rice 5 cups of water 1 large red onion, finely diced 1 large tomato, finely diced 2 garlic cloves, finely diced 1/2 teaspoon powdered red chili pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 4 plantains (should be yellow, not green)* 4 eggs Oil for cooking
* Green plantains are savory. Once they ripen and become yellow, they also become sweet. Majao is served with sweet yellow plantains.
In this video you can see how one woman prepares her majadito de charque. You may want to watch it prior to cooking. Family recipes vary slightly (in terms of quantities and sometimes seasonings) but the video will give you a good idea of how this is prepared.
For this recipe, which serves 4 people, you will need to soak your jerky for several hours or overnight to soften before you begin cooking.
Boil the jerky for about half hour to 1 hour. Do not throw out the water. Take the beef out of the water, set aside, and when it is cool, jerk it (pull it) into small pieces with your hands. If your jerky is still not tender enough to do this, you may need to cook it longer.
Finely dice the onion, garlic and tomato into small pieces. Sauté them in about 1 teaspoon of oil until the onion is soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).
In a large pot, bring the 5 cups of water to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil (bubbling), add in the 2 cups of rice. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not cover your pot.
Add the sautéed tomato mixture and the spices to the rice and stir for another 10-15 minutes until the rice is fully cooked. Be careful not to allow your rice to absorb all of the water. This recipe calls for a moist kind of runny rice, not a dry steamed rice.
Add the pulled beef jerky to the rice and stir until the meat is heated through. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.
To peel your plantains, cut off both ends, and remove the peeling with a knife. Then slice your plantains lengthwise into long pieces, about 1/2 inch thick (you should get about 4-6 long pieces from each plantain).
In a large frying pan, pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/2 inch of oil. Allow the oil to heat on high, then lower your heat just a little so that your oil doesn't burn or smoke.
Place your plantain strips into the pan and carefully fry them until they are golden. You may need to adjust your stove to ensure the pan is hot enough to fry but not so hot that it will burn the plantains. (If your oil begins to smoke, it's too hot).
Turn the plantains over with a fork or set of prongs one or more times until they are fully cooked and golden. They are fully cooked when they become soft and flexible. The desired result should be floppy plantains that are golden and sweet (not hard, toasted or crisp).
As you remove your plantains from the oil, place them on a plate that has been covered with a paper towel to absorb the oil.
In the same pan, fry your eggs. Bolivians typically serve the eggs sunny side up or overeasy, keeping a soft, runny yolk because they mix the yolk with the rice.
On a plate, serve a large helping of the rice and jerky mixture. Top it with one fried egg, and add 2-4 slices of fried plantain along the sides. You can garnish your majadito with a little parsley or serve with a small side salad.
If you try making majadito de charque, come back here, click below to comment, and let us know how you did and whether or not you enjoyed your meal. You can even share pictures! Have fun!