So, a block away from the office out of which I occasionally work, there's an awesome little bánh mě cart that makes some of the tastiest little Vietnamese sandwiches. It got me to thinking about what other little gems might exist around town, and I came across an article somewhere about Korean tacos being kind of the new hip food - a fusion of Mexican street food and Korean steak and such. When I was living in SoCal, I'd heard about a trio of food carts that have become so popular that they have a website that gives their schedules and daily menus. I've also since discovered that Portland has one that travels about as well. In any case, the concept sounded so tasty that I had to give it a shot.
I strayed a little away from the traditional meats: shredded pork or chicken. I had a bunch of carne asada in the cooler, so I went with grilling them on the back porch with some indirect heat to medium-rare, then slicing them up thin.
The real star of this delicious food, though, is the kogi barbecue sauce. The hardest thing to find was the gochujang, or Korean pepper paste, but there's a cool little Asian market down the road from my house that had the exact stuff I needed, and was kind enough not to mock what was likely my horrid mispronunciation.
We start out with 2 tablespoons of gochujang, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon of aji-mirin (a rice seasoning used in sushi). Preheat your oven to 200F, then whisk the ingredients all together in an oven-safe bowl until the sugar dissolves, then add your sliced carne into the bowl. Place in the oven while you prepare your cucumber slaw.
For the cucumber slaw, you'll want to slice an English cucumber near paper-thin. Some thickness is okay, but your goal is to create
a light, crisp addition, used much like you would use lettuce. Next, take 2 tablespoons of white whine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes, a pinch of cayenne, and a pinch of white pepper. Stir together than toss over the cucumber slices and seal and place into the fridge.
Roundabout now your meat should be done in the oven. Take it out, then start up a pan with a quarter inch of oil on medium heat. The trick to cooking corn tortillas in the pan is to not make them crisp; we're going for a soft, flexible bend to them and a bit of warmth, not tostada-crunch here. Once the oil is hot, lay your tortilla in on one side and let it cook until starts to bubble a little, then flip over and do the same to other side. Take it off the oil and pat down with a paper towel to reduce the grease.
For garnishing the tacos, I served them up with a few leaves of Thai basil out of our garden and a bit of avocado, plus some limes on the side to add some tang to the flavor. The sound of smacking lips and moans of delight were all I needed to know this one was a winner in the house.