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Cha Cha Bowl (Recipe for Mexican Chicken and Black Bean Rice Bowl)- Soraya Darabi and Alexa Andrzejewski – 50 Women Game Changers In Food

by Jeanette on May 25, 2012 · 24 Comments
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"Cha Cha Bowl" (Mexican Chicken Black Bean Rice Bowl)

One of my kids loves Chipotle Grill’s Burritos. This is a gigantic size tortilla filled with rice, beans, meat, salsa, cheese, and sour cream. Although the ingredients in and of themselves don’t sound too unhealthy, one of these burritos with all the fixings (sour cream, cheese, guacamole) tops 1000 calories! However, deconstructed and served as a burrito rice bowl, and leaving out the sour cream, cheese, and guacamole, the calories can be reduced in half.  The sodium content is a whole other issue (a whopping 1650 mg sodium).

This past week, while checking out Foodspotting’s SF Chefs Guide to Ballpark Food, the Cha Cha Bowl from Orlando’s Caribbean BBQ at Willie Mays Plaza in San Francisco, California, caught my eye. It reminded me of the Burrito Bowl from Chipotle Grill. The description on Foodspotting said this dish was made with cucumbers, but the recipe I found used zucchini.

So what’s in a Cha Cha Bowl or Mexican Chicken and Black Bean Rice Bowl as I call it? It’s basically a bowl of rice topped with black beans, grilled chicken or pork that has been marinated in a rich chili sauce, and pineapple zucchini salsa. Not typical ballpark fare, although these days ballparks seem to be offering a more diverse menu. I love seeing all the new varieties of food offerings at sports complexes.

I decided to give this a try at home this week. I have to be honest – there are many shortcuts that could have been taken with this recipe that I for some insane reason did not choose to do. Although I thought I would have plenty of time to make all the different components from scratch, life got in the way, and things were a mad scramble yesterday in order to get this post completed for today. See the recipe below for potential shortcuts.

We had a little scare yesterday morning. At 10:30AM I got a phone call from the nurse at my youngest son’s school. Apparently things had gotten a little rough during gym and my son fell down on the ground headfirst. I rushed to pick him up and the nurse was clearly concerned. My son had headaches, dizziness and nausea, all signs of a concussion. The pediatrician determined that my son probably had a mild concussion. My oldest son experienced a severe concussion as a high school football player two years ago, so I was so relieved to know that this was just a mild one.

Tonight, he was feeling much better, so I thank God that it is nothing serious. Thanks to all of you who reached out to me on Facebook yesterday – I really appreciate it.

"Cha Cha Bowl" (Mexican Chicken Black Bean Rice Bowl)
Today, a group of bloggers is honoring Soraya Darabi and Alexa Andrzejewski jointly as Top 50 Women Game Changers in Food. We are on #49 and have just one more week to go in this event. I’d never heard of these women, but Soraya Darabi and Alexa Andrzejewski are two of the brains behind Foodspotting, an iPhone application and website that allows users to post and discover restaurant dish recommendations through photographs based on their proximity. It is local, mobile, and social wrapped into one app, and has a global reach, with over 600,000 foods “spotted.”

I haven’t had a chance to try Foodspotting yet, but my son just downloaded it on my iPhone for me, so I’m hoping to take it out with me this coming weekend when I visit some local restaurants for a photo shoot.

5 from 1 reviews
Cha Cha Bowl (Chicken and Black Bean Rice Bowl)
Cook time
Total time
Adapted from Orlando's Caribbean BBQ's recipe. I made this healthier by using brown rice instead of white rice, and also more fun by adding roasted corn, fresh tomato salsa and avocado on top of the rice bowl. I think the extra toppings add more color and contrast and reminds me of the principles of Japanese Washoku cooking. It is best to marinate the chicken overnight for fuller flavor. This makes for a fun entertaining meal idea.
Serves: 4-6
Pineapple and Zucchini Salsa
  • 1 small zucchini, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • ¼ pineapple, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Thai chili or ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Brown Rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups medium-grain brown rice
  • 3½ cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Al Pastor Adobo Marinade:
  • 4 dried hot chilies
  • 6 dried mild chilies (I used New Mexico chilies; ancho chilies would also work)
  • 2 chipotle chiles, seeded
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • ¾ cup pineapple juice
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon organic sugar
  • ¼ yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves
  • ¼ piece cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
Fresh Tomato Salsa:
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper or Thai chili pepper, seeded, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Other Toppings
Pineapple and Zucchini Salsa
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt, to taste. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Bring to room temperature just before serving.
Brown Rice:
  1. Heat oil in a medium pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent. Add rice and cook about 2-3 minutes or until rice gets a little toasty. Place rice in a rice cooker, and add water and salt. Cook on brown rice setting. Fluff just before serving.
Al Pastor Adobo Marinade
  1. Place chiles in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until softened. Remove stems and seeds and transfer softened chiles to a food processor. Add all remaining ingredients, except chicken, and puree until smooth. Cover chicken in marinade. Let marinate at least 1 hour and preferably overnight. Remove chicken from marinade; reserve marinade.
  2. Place marinade in a small saucepan and cook until slightly reduced. Set aside.
  3. Preheat a grill. Grill chicken until cooked through. Cut into cubes.
Fresh Tomato Salsa
  1. Mix all the ingredients for Fresh Tomato Salsa together in a small bowl. Drain excess liquid.
To serve
  1. In 4 or 6 serving bowls, scoop a spoonful of rice into the bowl. Arrange Chicken, Pineapple and Zucchini Salsa, Black Beans, Fresh Tomato Salsa, and Roasted Corn on top of rice. Spoon some cooked chicken marinade on top of chicken if desired.
The original recipe called for lots of different dried chili peppers. Since I had New Mexico chilies and Indian chili peppers in my pantry, that's what I used. I halved the amount of Pineapple Zucchini Salsa as I had several additional toppings. Also, Instead of using granulated garlic in the brown rice, I used onions and garlic. I reduced the marinade and used it to spoon over the cooked chicken before serving.

All the components in this dish can be made several days ahead. I made the black beans a few days before I needed them, and marinated the chicken overnight.

Possible Shortcuts:
(1) Use canned cooked black beans; rinse well and drain before using
(2) Use plain cooked brown rice (leftovers are fine)
(3) Leave out the roasted corn
(4) Leave out the fresh tomato salsa

There’s only one week left in this event, but you are welcome to join for next week. Just ask Mary from One Perfect Bite. Please stop by and take a look at what the rest of the group made this week in celebration of Soraya Darabi and Alexa Andrzejewski:

Linda from There and Back Again
Val from More Than Burnt Toast
Taryn from Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan from The Spice Garden
Heather from girlichef
Miranda from Mangoes and Chutney
Mary from One Perfect Bite
Sue from The View from The Great Island
Barbara from Movable Feasts
Nancy from Picadillo
Kathleen from Bake Away With Me
Veronica from My Catholic Kitchen
Mireya of My Healthy Eating Habits
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook
Alyce – More Time at the Table
Amrita – Beetle’s Kitchen Escapades
Martha – Simple Nourished Living
Jill – Saucy Cooks
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

For more recipes from this weekly celebration, check out my 50 Women Game Changers In Food Pinterest Board as well as our group’s collaborative Pinterest Board.

This post has been linked up to Successful Together’s Successful Saturday’s Linkup.

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  1. I am glad to hear your son is OK. As for the Cha Cha bowl even the name makes me believes this is a party in the mouth.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your son. Being a kid who fell A LOT when he was in school, I know that i scared the crap out of my mom on quite a few occasions. I’m glad he is ok, though.

    And now I am ready to chow down to this bowl of goodness!

  3. We eat like this all the time. Gorgeous colors and flavors!

  4. This looks great! I hope everyone is okay and healthy! Have a great long weekend!

  5. Looks wonderful and fresh…and I voted for you!

  6. Oh, how scary! I’m glad to hear that your son is doing well, though…what a relief. And what I wouldn’t give for one of these amazing cha-cha bowls (fun!) right this minute. It looks SO good.

  7. This looks utterly delicious, Jeanette – just brimming with color and flavor. Glad your son is doing well! Voted! Good luck!

  8. i want to try making chicken with this marinade! i’ve been looking for a quality mexican chicken dish. :) i’m so glad that your son is okay! and i voted for you too!

  9. I’m so glad that your son is ok Jeanette. I have been voting (almost) daily and was thrilled to see you in the #1 spot when I voted today! Your bowl is very pretty, but your marinade really turns me on! We are having company for a barbeque and I may just have to try this for my kebobs!

  10. Yay! You’re back at number one. I’m still voting for you every day.
    The Cha Cha bowl looks really good. I’m going to try that adobo sauce.

  11. Jeanette Jeanette says:

    Glad you all are liking this Cha Cha Bowl – love the name! Thanks for your concern for my son – he actually had blurred vision today, so he’s still on the mend, but hoping by his birthday this weekend he’ll be 100%. And thank you all for your support this contest. It will be over soon! Yah!!

  12. What a scare you had! So pleased it wasn’t serious and he’s better. Nothing more frightening than injuries to our children. We feel so helpless.
    You did a great job with the Cha Cha bowl. Love the name and your photo was perfection. Made my mouth water!

  13. Glad your son is ok, Jeanette! Nice post—lovely balance in the bowl.

  14. I would SOOO much rather have one of these homemade bowls than Chipotle! Delicious! I’m so glad to hear your son is doing okay!

  15. That looks wonderful … it has an impressive list of ingredients, but well worth the slice and dice and measuring! Isn’t it scary when children get hurt? I’m so glad to hear that your son is doing okay! Concussions can be dangerous! Big phew!

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks Susan, there are a lot of ingredients on this list, but it is well worth it. These components can easily be used in a chopped salad the next day, or quesadillas too.

  16. I’m so glad your son is okay! It’s always so scary to get phone calls like that from school. My husband loves the burritos from Chipotle and I know he would go crazy for this bowl of goodness (okay, so would I).

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Thanks Dara, yes, I too get scared when I get the dreaded phone call from school. Hope you enjoy – this is a great way to enjoy Chipotle’s burrito bowl at home.

  17. Not a small recipe but totally worth the effort. I’m all over that zucchini pineapple salsa! This whole dish looks amazing.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      France, you are right. There is some effort behind this recipe, but it is so versatile and be enjoyed taco style and salad style using leftovers.

  18. Gorgeous and right up my alley, a great way to deconstruct a fattening restaurant dish! I’ve pinned this one. And I hope both of your little guys are feeling better.

  19. Glad you son is doing ok, and this sounds like a fantastic recipe idea!

  20. I am so relieved to hear your son is all right! Sounds like it was scary there for a while. I love the sound of this bowl, and I’m a big fan of Foodspotting. :-)

  21. this looks wonderful ! Unique and flavorful!
    :) thanks for linking on successful Saturdays!

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