Robin’s China borracho beans

26 Jul

Your beans rock like a KTV in an earthquake on a Saturday night.

–Ryan B.

Being so exposed to Mexican food and culture my entire life, I often made borracho beans before coming to China. The first time I tried to make this dish here, I searched high and low for pinto or even light-colored beans, but in vain.  Finally, I decided to use kidney beans, and developed an original interpretation of borracho beans that tastes much better than any of my attempts to make them at home before I moved here.  I saute the bacon in butter for 2 reasons: 1) just because I can, being in love with the idea of bacon cooking in butter, and 2) because the bacon here isn’t fatty enough and doesn’t yield the necessary lubricant for the vegetables to saute in.  I’m sure lime juice is a good garnish with the cilantro, but I don’t have that here, and I’ve never used a substitute.  I use the Philippino beer San Miguel, which is probably the closest thing to a Mexican beer that exists for a reasonable price in China.

I dedicate this recipe to Larry Nodarse, this version’s biggest fan on the planet.  Thanks for the love, Larry.  I’ve enjoyed making this dish each time as much as you’ve enjoyed eating it!

For a video of how to make these beans, starring yours truly (and special thanks to El Oso’s Famous Kitchen), click here.

-2 cups (or more) dried red kidney beans
-2 T. garlic, minced and 5-6 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
-1 large white onion, chopped
-1 large or 2 small green bell peppers, chopped
-4-6 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
-green or red chili peppers (use serrano or jalepeno if you can find them), amount depends on your tolerance of spice
-1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
-1 bottles Mexican beer (or whatever kind of beer you can use)
-2 tomatoes, chopped

Soak kidney beans overnight or for at least 12 hours by covering them with 2-3 times as much water as beans and letting them sit.  Add more water if beans expand beyond the top of the water in the pot.

Once beans are thoroughly soaked (you should be able to bite into one, although it will still be hard), cover them in water (barely) and add smashed garlic.  Bring to a boil and simmer until beans begin to be soft (about 90 minutes).

In a separate pot, melt butter and add bacon.  When the bacon begins to brown but is not yet cooked through, add the rest of the garlic, onion, bell pepper and chili pepper. After they sweat and begin to soften, add the beans from the other pot with the garlic and water.  Bring to a boil and leave on high heat.  Once the water begins to evaporate, add one of the beers and continue to cook on medium-high heat.  When the liquid once again reduces, add the second beer and the tomatoes.  Continue to boil on medium-high or low heat until beans are thoroughly cooked.  Once they begin to soften, start smashing them with the spatula as you stir.  Continue to reduce liquid until it begins to thicken slightly to a consistency you desire.  Add the cilantro (and lime juice) just before serving.

The trick to making this dish mouth-watering and addictive instead of just savory is actually over-cooking everything a little.  The liquid becomes reduced to a point comparable to that of a thick stew.  The onion, tomatoes and bell pepper disintegrate so much that you can barely distinguish their skins amidst the dark-brown mixture that has basically melted together into a new entity.



One Response to “Robin’s China borracho beans”

  1. Larry Nodarse August 8, 2011 at 12:39 #


    I love you AND your beans! It was absolute nirvana it was to eat them after going months eating NO food that had ANY Latin American flavor.

    Rest assured, I will be trying out your recipe when I move to Shanghai in the fall. For the time-being, I am spending my summer in Los Angeles CA and San Antonio TX, so I’ve had no need to risk a 3-alarm fire to make some good frijoles. But you can bet your butt that I’ll do it when I’m in China!

    Besos, Larry

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