Faux-gi Korean BBQ Tacos-Without the Truck

by Sarah on April 23, 2010

So. Have you heard of the Korean BBQ Taco Truck yet? No, of course it’s not here, sillies, Sacramento has put a virtual ban on mobile food vendors. The Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Truck is in Ellay.  How does one find the truck?  Via Twitter, darlings, it’s so modern.

a 2-hour wait for Korean BBQ tacos!

photos from The LA Times

So, how does one come up with taco fusion?  In a February 2009 article in the LA Times, owner Sam Manguera said “I’m biting into my taco and it dawned on me, ‘wouldn’t it be great if someone put Korean barbecue on a taco?’ ”  Well, yes, it IS great, and you’ve got the adoring fans to prove it.   Honey, I don’t know about you, but if there were a Korean taco truck here in town, I’d be out on that line too.

As you all know, I’m not in Ellay.  I’m in Sacramento.  That’s a good six hours away.  I may have been willing to wait on line for a while, but a six hour drive plus an hour wait for tacos seems excessive.  My best bet in scoring some Korean-style bbq tacos was to just go ahead and make them myself.

First, we’re going to marinate the meat.  Kogi uses boneless short ribs, and you can too, if you wish, or use a flank steak.  I had some top blade steaks that I got for a good deal so that’s what I used.  I had about a pound and a half.  For the marinade, I used sugar (not pictured), honey, soy, sesame oil, a clove of garlic and a sliced green onion.

You can make this in a dish or just put it into a big zipper bag.

Whisk it up so that it’s thoroughly combined.

This time I wanted to make this dish inside using a cast iron pan, so I sliced the meat thinly.  If you want to grill the meat–which I will try in better weather–slice the meat later.

Toss in the marinade so all the meat is coated.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  If you are using a whole piece of meat for grilling, marinate it a bit longer than the sliced meat.

Now that the meat is marinating, we can make the slaw.  It’s pretty basic.  Cabbage, radish, cilantro, green onion and sesame seeds with a dressing made of seasoned rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy, lime and sour cream.  Sour cream?  Yes, shut up.

I cut the radish in matchsticks, sliced the onion thinly and just roughly chopped the cilantro.  I was lazy and just used a bag of prepped cabbage.

Whisk together the rice vinegar, soy, lime and sesame.  If you don’t have seasoned rice vinegar on hand, just add a pinch of sugar or a drop of honey to sweeten it slightly.

Add a blob of sour cream.  Sue me, I like a creamy slaw.

Add in the sesame at the end.  All I had were black sesame seeds but that works too.

Ok, slaw’s done.  Let’s make the Kogi BBQ sauce.  This was adapted from the Steamy Kitchen blog, but I replaced the fermented hot pepper paste with chili-garlic sauce.

Voila.  BBQ sauce.

Now.  Time to get cooking.  You’ll want to turn your range fan on high for this, unless you are like me and live in a 60-year-old house and don’t have a range hood.  In that case, open some windows and maybe a door or two.  Things are going to get smoky.

A cast iron pan is good for this as it heats evenly and holds onto the heat.  You really want to sear the hell out of these suckers.  High heat, people.  For the first batch, a bit of oil.  You won’t need to add more.  Put about a 1/2 cup of meat in at a time, you don’t want to crowd the meat, because it will steam instead of sear. That would not be good.  Also, don’t move the meat around too much, you want it to get nice and browned.

When one side is brown, flip it over.  Be careful!  That’s a dang hot pan.  Keep cooking the meat in batches till it’s all done.  Set it aside on a plate.  This is also the time to toast some nice corn tortillas.  Get good quality ones.

Remember that BBQ sauce?  Now is when we’ll put it to use.  Take a toasted tortilla, pile on some of that delicious carmelized meat, then drizzle on the sauce.  My mouth is watering again thinking about it.

Slaw goes on top of that.

I’m really getting hungry again.  I made rice too, and a little squeeze of lime was a nice touch.

Meaty, salty, sweet, crunchy, soft.

All essential flavors and textures all in one bite.  You owe it to yourself to make these tacos.  I owe it to myself to make these tacos again and again and again and again.


Undercover Caterer’s Korean-Style BBQ Tacos

1-1/2 lbs top boneless top blade steaks (or use flank or skirt steaks, or boneless short ribs)

1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced

1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1-2 green onions, thinly sliced

4-5 radishes, cut into matchsticks

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

8 good-quality corn tortillas

Marinades/Sauces, below

For Marinade: 1/3 cup soy sauce; 2 Tbsp sugar; 2 Tbsp honey; 2 Tbsp sesame oil; 1 clove minced garlic; 1-2 thinly sliced green onions.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.

For Slaw: 2 Tbsp soy; 1 Tbsp sesame oil; 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (not seasoned); juice of 1/2 of a lime; 1/4 cup sour cream.  Whisk dressing ingredients together, chill until ready to use.

For BBQ Sauce: 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp chili-garlic sauce, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp rice vinegar (not seasoned).  Whisk together and set aside.


While meat is very cold, slice the meat thinly.  Add to the marinade, cover and chill for at least an hour.

Mix the slaw ingredients with the dressing and add the sesame seeds, set aside.

Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over high heat in a cast-iron or other heavy frying pan.  When the oil is smokin’ hot, add about a 1/2 cup of meat at a time and sear until browned.  Flip the meat over and cook until the other side is browned.  Remove the meat and set aside on a plate.  Keep cooking the meat in batches until it is all cooked.  Each batch will only take a couple of minutes.

To assemble tacos, toast tortillas, then pile on meat.  Drizzle over a spoonful of the BBQ sauce then a heaping spoonful of the slaw.  A squeeze of lime is nice too.

We served these with some rice, the kids liked it with more of the bbq sauce drizzled on top.

*This made 8 perfect tacos*


NOW that you’ve gotten to the end of that post, you can finally find out what I’m giving away!

Anthony Bourdain’s latest book of kitchen lore, The Nasty Bits!

All you have to do is leave me a comment and tell me what you’re making for dinner tonight.  The winner will be announced Monday morning!

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