Picadillo: Pho Girl-Made, Nacho Man-Approved

Cooking food from a culture that’s not your own can present the quandary of authenticity. Can a Vietnamese-Wisconsin girl really cook Mexican food? About as well as I can cook anything else. Can a Vietnamese woman make fried chicken, biscuits, chili cornbread, and rouladen? My mom can, like nobody’s business.

Don’t know what rouladen is? It’s the four basic food groups in one neat little package: beef, bacon, a pickle, and gravy.

So the answer is yes. Cooking food from another culture is one way to show respect and appreciation. It’s how we broaden our palette’s horizons. And while I won’t make any claims that my picadillo is authentic to any particular culture, it is authentic to me.

Some picadillo recipes call for ingredients such as green olives, capers, and golden raisins. I’m going without those, and focusing on spices. In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Place a large skillet of medium-high heat. Brown the meat, and when it’s close to cooked, throw in some diced green pepper and onion.

When the onion turns opaque, add a couple of cloves of diced garlic and the spice mixture. Let that spice mixture hit the bottom of the pan, then stir it into the meat and veggies.

Mix in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. Remove the pan from the heat and squeeze a healthy dose of lime juice over the mixture. Stir it up.

Serve with warm, homemade corn tortillas.

Picadillo a la Pho Girl

Serves 4


1 pound ground beef

1 green pepper, diced

1/4 of a large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons tomato paste

juice of half a lime


1. Combine cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cocoa powder, dried oregano, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Saute ground beef on medium-high heat in a large skillet.

3. When the meat is almost cooked through, add the onion and green pepper. Saute an additional 5 minutes, or until the onion is opaque.

4. Add the garlic and spice mixture and saute 30-60 seconds.

5. Add the tomato paste and mix well.

6. Remove pan from heat and add lime juice. Stir to mix.

Serve in homemade corn tortillas.

1 Comment

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One response to “Picadillo: Pho Girl-Made, Nacho Man-Approved

  1. Pingback: Corn Tortillas | The Adventures of Pho Girl and Nacho Man

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