One day, I was minding my own business, sifting through Serious Eats, when I came across an article about Kogi BBQ trucks. (see the article here: http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/02/a-typical-day-on-the-kogi-bbq-taco-truck-inside-look-ride-along.html) You see, Kogi BBQ is a taco truck company in Los Angeles. First of all, I am jealous of these taco trucks in general…Dallas isn’t much for the taco truck scene, and honestly, I think they’re seriously missing out on that one. I would kill to have a taco truck near my office, so I could just sneak out, every so often, and grab a mess of street food deliciousness for lunch. I’d be in heaven. (I might also be the size of a house…but let’s not talk about that.)
Anyway, back to Kogi. Kogi BBQ has quickly acquired something of a cult following, with people waiting in obscenely long lines just to get a taste of what they have to offer. What do they offer, exactly? Chef Roy Choi has created a menu of Korean-Mexican dishes to sell off of the trucks. Most popular items are the tacos, with fillings such as spicy pork, barbequed chicken, tofu, or their “signature” taco – the Korean Short Ribs Taco. A description of this taco, directly from Kogi BBQ’s site:
This is our signature taco. We get the best trimmings of short ribs we can find, let it swim in our own special marinade, and chop it nice and small so the flavors just dance on your taste buds. Once on the grill, the fat melts away to create that soft and tender texture everyone loves and the sugars just caramelize to give the meat that deep and savory flavor. This is the Kogi crowd favorite.
All our tacos are topped with:
- sesame-chili salsa roja
- julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette
- cilantro-green onion-lime relish
- crushed sesame seeds
- sea salt
- garnished with lime wedge, orange wedge and red radish wedge
I’ll pause for a moment and let the utter magnificence of this creation sink into your brain.
If you’re like I was, now you can’t possibly think of anything else but this enticing, tempting taco. You see, it haunted me. I too wanted to experience the greatness of Kogi BBQ. But I’m in Dallas, with no plans to visit L.A. in the near future. What was I to do?
Make it myself, of course.
Well, not exactly, as you and I both know that Roy Choi would not hand over his secret recipes to little ol’ me. But I figured, with a little ingenuity, I could create what I imagine the flavors would be like. And so, I began planning.
First off, I wanted to make the short ribs. I found a marinade recipe for Kalbi on Wandering Chopsticks that sounded perfect. A blend of sweet, salty, and savory, this would be a great base for my delicious tacos. As for the condiments, I took a cue from Kogi BBQ’s description, and made my version of a cilantro-onion relish, a salsa roja, and a vinaigrette for lettuce. Along with the other condiments, we were in business!
Preparing these was a breeze. There are a lot of little components, but each is relatively simple, and they come together pretty quickly. A good thing, because I couldn’t wait to get a taste of these babies!
And how did it taste? Well, I can’t tell you if it was close to the original, because I wouldn’t know, but if they were anywhere close, then I am in awe of Roy Choi’s creativity. The description Kogi BBQ gave, saying that the flavors dance on your tastebuds? Yeah. They do. But it’s not a delicate ballet. This is samba-meets-breakdancing, in-your-face dancing. The beef is tender and sweet-savory, but is brightened by the zap of the lime and orange juices. Salsa roja heats your mouth, but is cooled by the crunch of the lettuce and cilantro-onion relish. Crunchy and tender, salty, sweet, and savory, spicy and cool…my husband and I couldn’t get enough.
So I hope that one day I can experience a real Kogi BBQ taco. Or two, or three. But until then, this will become a regular on our menu.
For the marinade (adapted from Wandering Chopsticks):
1/4 c gluten-free soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 T brown sugar
2 T rice wine
1 t black pepper
2 t salt
1 pear, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lbs boneless beef short ribs
Place everything but the beef in a food processor and puree. Pour marinade over meat and refrigerate overnight.
Heat a grill over high heat. Grill beef for about 3 minutes per side, or until cooked medium. Remove from grill, and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Taste and salt if necessary.
For the cilantro-onion relish:
½ red onion, minced
1 t rice wine vinegar
1 T cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch or two of salt
Add onions and rice wine vinegar in a bowl. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Add rest of ingredients to onion and stir to mix.
For the sesame-chili salsa roja:
½ c sambal oelek (Asian garlic-chili sauce)
¼ t minced ginger
1 t sesame oil
Stir together thoroughly.
For the chili-soy-sesame vinaigrette – to dress the lettuce:
1 T gluten-free soy sauce
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 t sambal oelek (Asian garlic-chili sauce)
2 T sesame oil
pinch of salt
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into thin strips
Stir together soy sauce, lime juice, and sambal oelek. Whisk in sesame oil and salt. Toss lettuce with a light coat of dressing.
To make the tacos:
Grilled beef short ribs
Sesame-chili salsa roja
Toasted sesame seeds
Romaine lettuce, dressed with chili-soy-sesame vinaigrette
Heat corn tortillas individually on a comal or cast iron pan until warm. Assemble tacos by placing some beef in each tortilla, and top with cilantro-onion relish, sesame-chili salsa roja, sesame seeds, dressed lettuce, and a lime wedge, orange wedge, and radishes.