Inspiration for this nominally Korean dish comes not from Seoul but from the streets of Los Angeles, where apparently the popular Kogi BBQ truck has spawned a number of imitators around the U.S.
I’ve never been to Los Angeles and have never had Korean tacos made by anyone other than myself but I liked the sound of the idea and wanted to create my own version, gluten-free and low-FODMAP, of course. They came out delicious, a fusion of different flavours into a perfect marriage. (I don’t think the fact I’m in a mixed marriage myself is influencing me.)
This is a fairly quick and easy dish, perfect for a lunch or weeknight supper, and my kids loved it. I did take the shortcut of using ready-made gluten-free wraps (in this case the gorgeous BFree multigrain wraps) but it would probably add more Mexican flavour to use soft corn tortillas. (I wish I could find any where I live in England. I’m sure I could probably make my own but it would take more time than I wanted to devote.)
There are really only four basic components: bulgogi beef, lightly stir-fried carrots, quick cucumber pickle, and the wrap. All the above components can be made in advance, making it extra easy to put together right before you want to eat. If you want to do it all on the spot, it can be done, but start a minimum of an hour before you want to eat, because that’s the absolute minimum time the cucumber needs to pickle.
Quick cucumber pickle
You can dramatically vary the taste of the cucumber pickle based on how long you soak the cucumber and whether the soaking liquid is hot or cold when you start. I usually use a cold soak because that’s the more Japanese way, which I grew up with. Koreans also use a cold soak, so if you want more Korean-tasting tacos, that’s what you should stick with.
This time, however, I decided to make pickles that taste a little more like Western-style sweet pickles, so I started with hot soaking liquid. The result isn’t quite like pickles from a supermarket jar, though – because the cucumbers aren’t really cooked and because there are no ingredients such as dill or garlic, these come out fresher-tasting.
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cucumber (I actually used about 3/4 of an extra-large English cucumber), very thinly sliced
- Mix together first four ingredients. The sugar and salt will dissolve better in hot water, but you can make this pickle cold if you want. If you want your pickles to turn out more like thinly sliced cucumber salad, start with cold water. If you want your pickles to turn out more like, well, pickles – start with freshly boiled water. However, if you do the later, remove the hot water from the heat before you start mixing in anything else.
- Soak the thinly sliced cucumber in the liquid mixture for a minimum of an hour and up to about three days. The shorter the soaking time, the crunchier the texture and milder the taste.
- Bulgogi beef ( I used the other half of the meat I marinated from when I made jap chae, so see the recipe there)
- Toasted sesame seeds, optional
- Quick cucumber pickle (see above)
- Carrot, julienned
- Sesame oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Gluten-free wrap or 100% corn tortilla
- Shichimi, optional (see note at bottom of my jap chae recipe)
- Stir-fry the marinated beef, optionally adding a tablespoon or so of toasted sesame seeds for added crunch.
- Stir-fry the julienned carrots in a bit of sesame oil, with salt and pepper to taste, until carrots are tender-crisp.
- Assemble by layering beef, carrots, and cucumber pickle on a wrap or corn tortilla. I made these tacos fairly small but you could make them much bigger if you like. Top with shichimi to taste (optional but strongly recommended). Wrap and serve!