Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spicy Korean Tacos, L.A. Taco Truck Style, for the International Incident Taco Party



International Tacos Incident Party

I have never been to Los Angeles (*gasp*) but if I ever do find myself there, I know the very first thing I want to eat. Hmmm ... will I race to Mr. Chow's? Run to Mario Batali's Mozza? Skip to Matsuhisa?  No, no and no: What I really and truly long to do is taste one of Chef Roy Choi's Korean/Mexican fusion tacos. I envy the Angelenos who get to enjoy the amazing creations that come out of his Kogi Korean BBQ  taco truck. How could these things not be amazing?
So I took the taco theme of this month's International Incident Party - hosted, as ever, by the lovely Penny aka Jeroxie - as an opportunity to take matters into my own hands. I don't have plans to go to L.A. anytime soon, so why not try to create the Korean taco experience on my own? 

And my, oh my. The flavors ... how can I describe the flavors? Crispy fried tofu that's been coated with garlic, ginger, gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) and cayenne; topped with kim chee, jicama, hoisin sauce, and green onions - do I really need to say anything else? Such a unique, yet utterly harmonious, combination.  All of this nestled in fresh, homemade tortillas made for one perfect bite after the next.  I wish I could take credit for having invented it!

The first step was to make the corn tortillas. After having these fresh out of the skillet, I can tell you one thing: I will never eat store-bought tortillas again.  And they're so simple to make - even without a tortilla press. You just need a strong man to help you press those babies flat ...  and as always,  I am grateful for the strong arms of Poppa Trix!

I followed the tortilla recipe at Simply Recipes. I mixed 2 cups of masa harina (corn flour that's been treated with lime) with 2 cups of warm water and 1/4 tsp baking soda, and let it sit for 5 minutes. I then kneaded the dough for a few minutes until it became a smooth mass:

Masa:

Mix:

Mass:

Next, I pinched off uniform, golf-ball sized pieces and rolled them into smooth balls:

At this point, if you have a tortilla press,  individually place the balls between sheets of wax paper and simply ... press. Instead, I pressed down with a skillet (though still with the dough between wax).  I didn't have much luck getting the dough to form 6 inch discs until I enlisted Poppa Trix as my human tortilla press.  He decided to be camera shy that day, so you don't get to see his awesome feats of strength! But here's how it works:


Now gently peel back the wax from the uncooked tortilla, and cook on a hot skillet for about 30 seconds on each side:
Before you know it, you've got yourself a gorgeous stack of fresh corn tortillas:
To keep them warm while you make your taco filling, just cover and keep in a 200 degree oven. I strongly suggest you eat one when they're piping hot! Poppa Trix and I certainly couldn't resist. ... Besides, poor Poppa needed sustenance after mashing all those tortillas. A tortilla press purchase is definitely in my future!

Now for the filling.  Chef Choi's recipe for spicy tofu tacos has been reprinted and adapted many times;  I went with the one I found here, though I did make a few changes - mainly substituting jicama for Asian pear and hot paprika for Korean pepper powder.

The recipe calls for gochujang, a Korean pepper paste, and rather than run all the way to Asian superstore H-Mart (which I love, don't get me wrong) , I decided to see if I could find an independent Korean grocer closer to my neighborhood. While I failed at that task, I did find Nak Won, an awesome Korean restaurant that I plan to try soon ...
... and they gave me a free container of gochujang. Score!

To prepare the sauce for the tofu, you'll need 1 tbsp hot paprika, 1 tbsp gochujang (I used more) 1 tbsp grated garlic, 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp sesame oil and a sprinkle of salt:

I decided this was the perfect opportunity to use the sole Hungarian pepper from a plant I bought at the farmers market, and I chopped it up and threw that in the mix as well:

Next, fold in 14 oz. of cubed tofu that's been drained and pressed in a clean cloth for an hour or so:


In another bowl, combine 3/4 cup cornstarch and 2 tbsp of hot paprika. Carefully add the tofu and tap off  the excess in a colander:

Now it's time to get frying. Heat 2 cups of canola oil to 355 degrees F, and fry for about 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Now, as much as I loved these crunchy bites of tofu, I did feel that a good bit of the rich spicy flavor of the sauce was lost in the frying process. In the future, I would saute the tofu without the sauce until crunchy , and then toss it in the sauce while it's still piping hot. I realize this wouldn't be for everyone because you're going to get some serious heat in your tofu this way - but that's definitely the way I'd do it next time.

Once the tofu is drained, it's time for the really fun part - assembling the tacos! On a warm tortilla, place some of the tofu, julienned slices of jicama or Asian pear, kim chee, 1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce, and sliced scallions. Heaven on a plate:
 

And of course you want some ice cold Korean beer or soju to wash it all down! Now go check out what everyone else has brought to the taco party!





57 comments:

  1. wow! i bet that is one DELICIOUS taco! so many flavors and textures, mmmm! that is wonderful you made your own tacos! nothing beats a homemade taco! fabulous job, Trix! :)

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  2. How do you do that! Amazing, just take a recipe and make it into a wonderful healthy meal wow these look great and I have never had tofu!

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  3. Great step by step photos and instructions!

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  4. I am so tortilla envy now. And both of us did an asian fusion tacos! HIGH 5 babe!

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  5. Yessssss! A vegetarian taco! Love the spicy tofu. Can't wait to try this out for dinner soon, thanks :)

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  6. The homemade tortilla is the best.
    Great instructions and photos.
    I wonder if I can use spaghetti making machine to roll the dough flat because I haven't got any strong arms around. :)

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  7. I guess I wasn't the only one channeling Kogi! LOL! :)

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  8. Oh, this is brilliant!! It looks so so so so good! The tofu looks good enough to eat on its own. :) And you shouldn't be distracting us with that gorgeous green sundress. Just sayin'. ;)

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  9. You make tofu look good, Trix! I want to make those tortillas and do these and maybe a fried fish version with that great spice mix... thanks for taking on the learning curve for the rest of us... I am off to the Korean store this week to get the goodies!!!

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  10. Your tortilla is perfect Trix! Fantastic!

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  11. love the combination of flavours in your taco. looks soooo good

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  12. OMG am so jealous of your gorgeous and perfect corn tortillas. I could not find corn masa and had to do with corn meal instead and so mine are haphazard and crazy shapes! Yours are truly restaurant quality - GORGEOUS! And the fillings - oh my!

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  13. Beautiful corn tortillas! WOW, now that's a tasty taco, great instructions, who needs a taco truck in the neighborhood?? A most inspirational post for lovers of homemade tortillas, the last time I had a homemade tortilla, they were made by a friend's grandmother!

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  14. Beautiful photos, recipe, text and step by step instructions! I've heard of these fusion Korean-Mexican tacos and I too hope to go to LA to try them. You are totally right once you make your own tortillas store bought are never the same. That is unless you go to a tortilla factory and get them fresh off the press, delicioso. I also participated in the IIP :)

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  15. Oh, nice!! I've seen a couple people blog about the Korean/Mexican fusion tacos in the past and remember WANTING to try some badly...yours have set my mouth a-watering all over again. YUM!

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  16. Love how you shaped the tacos with a pan, brilliant. That tofu flavoring looks so good.

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  17. I love that these are with tofu...they look fantastic, and your tortillas are perfect:)

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  18. Trixie,

    You've elevated the taco to a whole new level. Clever, inventive, tasty dish. Great photo tutorial as well.

    Great job.

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  19. Oh yum! Thanks for the recipe. I've been hearing all about the West Coast peeps and their Kogi truck...we finally got a Korean taco truck here!

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  20. I am inspired all over again this weekend. What a great recipe, with terrific step-by-step photos. Thanks!

    eggy

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  21. who needs a tortilla press with Poppa around... everything just sounds tasty and the spicy is what I would love...love the pics, except for the lonely chile....

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  22. Beautiful!! This is what I miss about not living in LA anymore. Every time we're down there on business we wind up glutting on everything we can't get here. Next time I'm really looking forward to catching the Dosa truck I've been hearing so much about. This whole truck trend is great!

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  23. wow you did a fab job on these like a pro

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  24. I love what you've done with the tacos! So many wonderful ones to try!

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  25. saw your link from my blog, so thought i'd check ya out! great looking tacos, and impressive handmade tortilla skillz! you've inspired me to make my own sans tortilla press :).

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  26. Hey Trix, those photos are the jam (I sang that-smile). Okay, I'll stop being weird and get to the food: these look awesome! And I'm glad you used your lonesome pepper. Wonder why there aren't more? I bet you need more fertilizer and sunlight-peppers need that sun and heat!

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  27. Awesome recipe. I have the same plate. :P

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  28. This is GREAT, and ur pics look perfect! Chef Roy Choi now has a restaurant called Chego in the case that you can't chase his taco trucks -- Chego's menu is just as amazing as his Korean tacos. I go at least once a week. Roy Choi is a genius!

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  29. great post. this is an awesome idea for tofu!

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  30. Tacos truck?! It's my fav!! I'm allergic to food trucks. Everytime I hear about them I shall need to go try to make me feel better :) Great photo instructions of making tortilla. Fried Koren tofu is a genius idea! Love it.

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  31. The taco making technique is simply great. The Hungarian pepper has been nicely captured. will give it a try this weekend. Can we also add some cheese to the Tacos? :)

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  32. Great photos. The tacos sound terrific, I need to find that truck! Congrats on Top 9!
    LL

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  33. Your tortillas turned out looking so uniform and perfect! Delicious looking tacos and your photography is edible. Nice post.

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  34. My goodness, do those ever look good! I love that you made your own tortillas. The next time I'm in L.A., I will definitely be seeking out the taco truck.

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  35. Wow, my husband would love these (actually, so would I)! Beautiful photos-congrats on Top 9.

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  36. Awesome post! I had no idea it was so easy to make homemade corn tortillas. And we have a huge bag of masa taking up lots of room in our pantry that we had no idea what to do with. Your tasty looking photos might actually convince Michael to try tofu - yum!

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  37. what an inspiring post! LA taco truck.. Still haven't been there but I can't wait to go back and try it.

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  38. I so love handmade tortillas! Super YUM!!!

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  39. This looks like such a spectacular taco! I've been reading about the Taco truck, and I'm dying to try it too! I'm glad that you shared the recipe a trip to LA is not in my near term future plans.

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  40. Looks like so much fun to make. I love this Korean version. Basically I love the kimchi :P I have just bought 2 Chinese cabbage yesterday and going to make kimchi later. Would love to try making the tortilla one day.

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  41. *GASP* you've never been to LA? My hometown?! tsk tsk ;)

    My friend is actually one of the founders of Kogi truck but they just started it right when I left so I've never had the pleasure of tasting it. And amazingly, I haven't been back to California since I left so this little recipe of yours will hold me over until then.

    I love me some tacos! Thanks :)

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  42. Great flavours, fantastic photos and aren't those little tacos just the most adorable little bundles of goodness?!? Love how you've turned the taco around and put your stamp firmly on it :)

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  43. Amazing and a true inspiration! I happen to have a stronger affinity for tofu if it is wrapped or fried--so this works in my book! Homemade flour tortillas are the only way to go, but now so are corn tortillas! Thanks Trixie Girl! YUM!

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  44. Korean barbecue tacos are my favorite type of taco, which probably means I'm not the biggest fan of Mexican tacos. I've been looking for a recipe and your beautiful post has pointed me in the right direction.

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  45. Oh Korean style taco! That sounds delicious! I love Korean food and can't wait to try this.

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  46. This looks amazing and the step by step will help me create these at home!!!

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  47. Love. It.

    Much respect to you for making your own tortillas! They look perfect! And tofu tacos? I'm so in! Can't wait to try these following your recipe and tips. Love the photography, T! Gorgeous as ever!

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  48. Beautiful tacos, even though not a huge fan of the traditional tacos, I know I would love your version, everything looks so fresh!

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  49. Great job - a lot of work, also to put so many step by step pictures. I never have enough courage to publish step - by - step.
    Very nice idea for tortillas; I do not know much about Korean cooking, I have heard about gochujang but I have never tried; it is available in France, but not in Poland (maybe in Warsaw). Kind regards!

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  50. Tacos from scratch?,wonderful! :D

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  51. You're an amazing woman and far more controlled than I - how you managed to get those crispy fried tofu squares into the tacos before devouring every last one I'll never know. Looks incredible :)

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  52. Those corn tortilla are a meal in themselves!!
    All the flavors, looks so good!!
    Thank you for sharing:)

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