Adventures in Street Food at Home


How to make Steak Tacos, Street Style

Steak Taco, Street Style  - with a flourish!

Steak Taco, Street Style

So it’s coming into picnic season at your house and you want to cook something new and interesting. You’ve cleaned the grill, restocked on charcoal and wood chips, you’re considering the upcoming holiday, and you’re ready for a small culinary adventure.  What do you do?

You make steak tacos, Tijuana street style. Because, let’s face it,  you want to use that shiny BBQ you invested in last year and you want to stretch yourself by tackling something new and different. And most of all, because you love flavor-packed, grilled meats.

How do you make a perfect steak taco? Steak tacos are easy. Let’s look at making a great steak you’ll be proud to serve your friends and family.

The Secret to Steak Taco Success

The secret is to prepare the steak with a fabulous marinade before your guests are due for dinner. A simple, robust marinade that delivers mouth-boggling flavors is easy and can be prepared in minutes using your food processor or blender.  At Taco Beach Grill in Bali, our new menu offers Steak Tacos, Street Style based on the recipe shared with us by world-class chefs  Mary Sue Millekin and Susan Feniger, the ladies who operate the renowned Borders Grill in Los Angeles. Their recipe was obtained on their trip into Mexico back in 1985. Our house marinade is a bit more nuanced in that we toss in a few additional favorite herbs and spices to broaden the flavor profile of the steak once it hits your tongue but their recipe is perfect as is for those using an outdoor grill.  (Watch Borders Grill chefs preparing steak tacos here:

The Recipe

For this magical marinade you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cups olive oil
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 3 bunches cilantro
  • 6 jalapeno chiles or serranos, seeded
  • ¼ cup TBS roasted cumin seeds
  • 4 garlic

This yields enough for about 2 kilos or about 4 ½ pounds of thinly sliced meat.

Holy Trinity1acompressed

Start with this basic recipe and you’ll be fine. If you don’t want to go on a scavenger hunt looking for these exact ingredients, you can substitute local chilies and virtually any vegetable or salad oil. Here in Bali we have several vegetable oils available cheaply, and they give good results.  We prefer to avoid palm oil, due to its destructive environmental impact and loss of animal habitat.

“Not all garlic is created equal.” (Click to Tweet)

Here in Bali and much of Asia garlic is much softer in heat and flavor than American garlic. Also remember that in Asia we often get a lime similar to Florida’s key lime which is more tart than the Persian lime generally used in America and Mexico. So make careful notes of the results of your first batch, and adjust the next batch accordingly to close in on the flavor profiles and intensity you’re aiming for.

Now what?

Using the marinade is easy, if messy.  Massage some salt into the (thinly cut, about ½ inch thick) steak and then lay it out in a ziplock bag and apply the marinade liberally with a silicon spatula to both sides.  At Taco Beach Grill, we use only the finest cuts of local beef tenderloin.  Elsewhere you might use a less expensive cut of the more flavorful sirloin or even a skirt or strip steak However here in Bali, due to the low fat content and diet of our local beef, we start with the best meat we can. When marinated properly, it’s often tender enough to cut with a butter knife.

Once the marinade has been slathered on both sides of the lightly salted steak in the ziplock baggie, burp the baggie to remove all the excess air.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours for good results, or better yet overnight. We find that marinating beyond 24 hours can damage the steak, so don’t overdo it. If you’re unable to grill your marinated steak according to your planned schedule (say if a gang of vegan ruffians and PETA pay you unexpected visit), just freeze it. It freezes well for quite some time, and in fact can be prepared this way for later use when something fabulous is needed on short order (for example when your father in law comes over to assess how well your lifestyle choices are working out for him.)

Now it’s time to barbecue it over charcoal, or wood, if possible, although sautéing it in olive oil is an excellent method. If you sliced the steak thinly to about ½ inch thick, this will cook in about 1-2 minutes per side. You’ll want a high heat, searing and sealing the outside fast to prevent moisture loss, and a quick flip. You can use any excess marinade on it while cooking, as it adds a nice effect to the final product, yielding nice charred notes and crunchy textures.

After cooking, let the steak relax for about five minutes to redistribute the juices inside without leaking out before you slice it. A good rule of thumb with any cut of beef is to note which way the grain is running in the meat, and cut across the grain, before serving it. This makes excellent beef fajitas strips.

Just don’t overcook it.  Next we’ll discuss a sweet ancho chili salsa relish which can be used on almost any taco or meat, in pastas or as a sweet and savory salad dressing.  And remember, choose joy!