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Spices make red beans and rice dish from Mayo Ketchup 'full-flavored, not hot'
Special Request

Spices make red beans and rice dish from Mayo Ketchup 'full-flavored, not hot'

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Special Request Mayo Ketchup red beans and rice

The red beans and rice recipe from Mayo Ketchup works well as a side dish or as a base for bowls savvy cooks can top with pork, steak, chicken, fish, or vegetables. Photo by Pat Eby

Mayo Ketchup, the fast casual restaurant serving Caribbean, Puerto Rican and Dominican foods that opened last August in Lafayette Square, offers a full range of shareable plates, bowls, sandwiches and sides. Although the soothing island-themed dining room isn’t currently open, owners Mandy Estrella and Bradley Payne provide curbside service from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a full menu of tempting Latin specialties that have become mainstays for many in St. Louis.

Estrella, who came on the food scene in St. Louis as Plantain Girl, has carved out a loyal following for her authentic dishes. “Complex’” is a good way to describe the flavors Estrella builds in each of her creations. One common misconception she finds about Latin food is that people think it’s hot and spicy. “It’s full-flavored, not hot,” she says.

These well-seasoned red beans begin with a sauté of the aromatics — finely chopped onions, garlic and green peppers. Flavors that may be unfamiliar come in when Estrella adds a Caribbean spice packet that includes annato, which is derived from the red seeds of the fruits of the tropical achiote tree, and coriander.

Annato adds a golden-orange color and a sweet, peppery bite to a dish. Coriander is a spice from the seeds of the coriander plant, the leaves of which we know as cilantro. Unlike the pungent leaves, coriander adds a lemony note to a dish. Estrella suggests seasoning to taste with adobo sprinkled on the dish, which adds another layer of new flavors.

Estrella sells the beans both as a side dish and as a component in one of her most popular bowls, Pollo Guisado. The beans, which sit on a layer of white rice, get topped with vegetables, chicken, pickled red onion, avocado and tostones.

Mayo Ketchup appeals to people from the Latin diaspora and to regular folks who haven’t experienced the cuisine as well. “Some of our most popular dishes with American audiences are the empanadas and the Cuban sandwich,” Estrella says. Ropa Vieja, a bowl with flank steak, rice, black beans and maduros is a favorite across the board. Other fun menu items to try include the jibbarito, the arepas, buffalo tostones and the platters of shareable items that come in several sizes and combinations.

Customers can order online or over the phone for curbside pickup. Watch the Mayo Ketchup website for details of new catering options Estrella and Payne are developing for the fall. “We’re celebrating our first anniversary on Aug. 28,” Estrella says. “It’s been an unusual year, but we are serving our customers and changing as we need to through this pandemic.”

Mayo Ketchup

2001 Park Avenue


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