Sunday, March 14, 2010


Best Blog Tips

(Sorry I've been posting so infrequently lately-- family business.

I don't live in L.A.-- I live on a little island off of Vancouver Island, on the west coast of Canada. But I have read about those Korean BBQ tacos from Southern California (my mother's old stomping grounds from when she was a kid). They have been a smash success being sold from the Kogi Korean taco trucks.

Here's what their website says: "Born from late-night hunger by founders Mark Manguera, Caroline Shin-Manguera and Chef Roy Choi, the Kogi truck is a traveling Los Angeles landmark that serves up Korean Mexican tacos, day and night.

... Quality Korean barbecue meets traditional, homemade tortillas and fresh veggies to create a taste that carries the rhythms of LA street culture and exudes the warmth of all that California sun. Under the direction of Chef Roy Choi, Kogi has developed a menu that delivers high-end food at street level prices.

Twitter is used to communicate truck locations and Chef Roy Choi’s daily specials to well over 50,000 loyal followers. Add some wheels to the mix and you’ve got yourself a restaurant that geographically responds to the flavor of the crowd – from Silver Lake to Eagle Rock to all the way down to Orange. Currently Kogi operates 4 trucks – Azul, Verde, Naranja and Roja – and fresh out of the kitchen at the Alibi Room in Culver City."

I first saw a recipe for Korean Tacos on the Steamy Kitchen blog from last July-- meat version, of course (kogi means "meat", BTW).  I just got around to trying a vegan version of Korean tacos today for lunch. I don't know why it took me so long-- it was fast, easy and scrumptious. Making your own veggie version is probably going to be the only way you can enjoy it if you are vegan or a vegetarian. The Kogi BBQ blog has a post about eating veggie from their trucks, so read up if you're vegan or vegetarian and interested-- there is fish sauce in their kimchi and the organic tofu is cooked on the same grill as everything else-- it's a small truck.

One of the Kogi BBQ trucks
If you are curious about the combining of cultures in food, the Kogi BBQ blog has a post called "Ess Not Fusion". Here are some excerpts:

"I can see the confusion over the fusion label — there are a lot of Korean flavors. There are a lot of Mexican flavors. And sometimes some trashy American flavors mixed with some Salvadorean influences. It’s confusing. But just know that our food is not confused: it knows EXACTLY what it is."


"FUSION implies you take 2 disparate things and FUSE them together. You join two things together with duct tape, you can see where one thing ends and the other begins. It’s fascinating, and yet it’s not natural. Like French Japanese or Korean Italian. Those cuisines didn’t come together through a natural affinity, a natural progression over time. For example: Mexican Italian. I’ve seen it done and done well — but it’s that European element that’s usually utilized to “elevate” a food and make it more marketable as a “serious” cuisine. Moreover, the intention behind fusion is usually to catch someone’s attention, to spark or speak to a trend.

We didn’t go in here thinking, “Let’s bring Mexican and Korean together because it’ll be weird and cool.”

The thing is, Mexican Korean flavors coming together is only a natural progression. For generations, Chicanos and Koreans have lived side by side in K-town. Tortillas are commonly found in supermarkets around here — and it wasn’t uncommon to bring a bag of those Mission tortillas to a Korean barbecue in the height of summer. What do you think happened when those Korean peoples ran out of rice?

That’s why we don’t call it fusion.

But what we do call it is Angeleno."

Okay, on to what I did with this today...

I did have a container of Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang) in my refrigerator, and I added liquid smoke to my sauce because smoky BBQ meats are generally used in these tacos. I used corn tortillas because that's what I had, and, anyway, I think they taste better than wheat tortillas. I didn't have any kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage pickle), or cucumbers to make Quick Cucumber Pickle (remember, I live on an island and the store is closed on Sundays.) But that wasn't really a problem. I searched through my fridge and found a turnip, some red and green peppers already cut, and some green onion-- good enough. I made a tasty quick pickle/salad with that and we were in business.

Printable Recipe

PS: If you want to make your own vegan kimchi to use as a condiment with this dish, try Julie Hasson's recipe-- easy-peasy, she says. You may be able to find a commercial version without seafood (many varieties contain either fish sauce or salted shrimp)-- see this article for the regional differences in ingredients.

Servings: 4
Yield: 8-12 tacos

Adapted from a recipe here. For the "kogi" (which means "meat"), you can use reconstituted Soy Curls™, your favorite type of seitan, commercial "chicken strips", Field Roast "Celebration Roast" cut in strips, even strips of fried tofu or tempeh. I have include a recipe for a Quick Turnip Pickle, but you can use vegan kimchi instead, or use both. This recipe, including the pickle, is very quick to make!

1 lb (16 oz.) shredded or julienned chicken substitute of choice (see text above)
8-12 / 7" corn tortillas
KogisStyle BBQ Sauce:
2 tablespoons Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)
3 tablespoons organic unbleached granulated sugar
or 2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (or a little more to taste)
1/2-1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Quick Turnip Pickle:
1 medium purple and white turnip, peeled and shredded or grated
1/2 a medium red bell pepper, seeded cut into short slivers
1/2 a medium green bell pepper, seeded cut into short slivers
4 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon organic unbleached granulated sugar or agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili pepper flakes
salt to taste

For the BBQ Sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together until sugar has dissolved. You can make this ahead of time and store it in a covered jar the refrigerator, if you like.

The type of Korean hot pepper paste that I use

Jar of Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)
To make the Quick Turnip Pickle, mix together all of the ingredients. Taste for salt. Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate as you make the tacos.

To make the taco filling, heat a large nonstick pan with a little oil in it. When hot, add the chicken substitute and toss it around in the hot oilk until slightly browned. Pour in the BBQ sauce and distribute around in the pan until everything is coated and hot. Set aside with a cover on it.

Heat the tortillas in a tortilla warmer, or warm them in a covered casserole in the oven, OR in the microwave for a minute or two (if you use the microwave, heat them AFTER the Filling is done). Here's some advice on heating tortillas from Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo (author of "Heirloom Beans"). Here's advice on using a terra cotta tortilla warmer in your stove's oven, and here is advice for using it in a microwave. You can use other types of covered casseroles or tortilla warmers. You can also wrap them in foil and use the oven. You could wrap them in cloth and use a bamboo or other steamer. Here is a page with examples of the many ways to heat soft tortillas.

Quickly distribute the filling evenly between all of the tortillas and serve with the Quick Turnip Pickle on the side, and some vegan kimchi alongside it, if you wish. (Don't forget the napkins.)

THE NUTRITION FACTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS RECIPE ARE FOR 4 SERVINGS, USING 12 TORTILLAS. IF YOU USE ONLY 8 TORTILLAS, THEY ARE AS FOLLOWS: Nutrition (per serving, 2 tortillas each): 355.1 calories; 25% calories from fat; 10.3g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 948.7mg sodium; 317.1mg potassium; 50.5g carbohydrates; 9.0g fiber; 14.8g sugar; 41.5g net carbs; 18.8g protein; 7.2 points.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving, 3 tortillas each
): 412.8 calories; 23% calories from fat; 10.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 951.5mg sodium; 357.2mg potassium; 62.6g carbohydrates; 10.4g fiber; 14.8g sugar; 52.2g net carbs; 20.3g protein; 8.4 points.



Knit - R - Done said...

I can't wait to try these! I've been trying to make vegetarian versions of Korean food since we got back from Osan AFB.

Unknown said...

These sound so good! I'm a fajita and taco addict, and this sounds like an awesome way to try something a little different.

Michelle said...

I absolutely love that you take such a multi-cultural approach to veganism!! As an Asian person, I am especially excited to see asian sauces and dishes made without animal products! You can bet that I'll be saving the potsticker recipes!!

Marie said...

A new twist on tacos! I'll be trying these this week-end. Thanks for posting.

spiceislandvegan said...

Hi Bryanna,

I heard about this truck. I probably could catch it in Westminster since they stop there. However, I am glad I didn't knowing now that the cook the tofu in the same grill.

I will probably make your recipe. Thanks for the recipe. I love gochujang.


Jen said...

I've never heard of these but they sound so tasty!

Jennifer said...

I've been craving tacos all night, and now I've coming across this! :) YUM!! I LOVE the idea of the turnip in them too!

Mother Rimmy said...

I love this recipe. What a great change form the typical taco. Can't wait to try it.

Maija Haavisto said...

Sounds tasty. I learned about gochujang from Susan the Fat-Free Vegan and it's one of those ingredients I always have in the fridge (well, it's sold in huge boxes and keeps almost forever, but still).

Anonymous said...

These look mouthwateringly delicious! There's a restaurant here in Texas that uses marinated Portobello mushroom strips to make fajitas. I think I'll try that when I get around to trying this. Money is really tight right now and I can't affoed to do any unneccessary spending.

Anne from Vegan Digest said...

This recipe is Vegan Digest's Vegan Recipe of the Day today. I've made the BBQ sauce recipe and used it with several other dishes. It's delicious!