Archive for the ‘Korean Tacos’ Category

Wow! Major big ups to Chef Roy Choi!

Not surprisingly, he was one ten chefs to be so honored this year — and, naturally, the only one rockin’ a grill in a truck.

In his interview with the magazine, Choi told them that he’s had an unorthodox arc in finding his culinary chops:

“When I was 25, before I started cooking, I hit rock bottom. I was almost disowned by my family,” he said. “Then one day, I was lying on the couch watching Essence of Emeril, and I had an out-of-body experience. I felt like Emeril stepped out of the TV and shook me by the shoulders and said, ‘Get off that couch. Taste this, smell this, do something.’ So I went to the bookstore, started doing research and read about chefs like Eric Ripert [at New York City's Le Bernardin].”

But the best part of the interview details Kogi & Co.’s new (previously-secret) brick-and-mortar restaurant in West LA, Chego! :

“Chego loosely means ‘thumbs up’ in Korean,” he said. “It’s like when your mouth is full and your grandmother asks how her food is, you just give her a thumbs up.”

Apparently lots of people are already loving the restaurant that’s been open now for six weeks, with the Chubby Pork Belly Bowl being the big draw. One Yelper described it thusly: “The One Chubby Pork Belly was just as beautiful. The water spinach and peanuts were a surprising touch that added a needed texture to the bowl. The coriander gave a fresh herbaciousness to the dish. The sunny side fried egg added a lovely richness to the fatty chunks of pork belly. WOW. ”

Man, I can’t wait to try it.

MoGo BBQ: Interview with Sam Pak, founder

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on April 7, 2010

As much as I love the Bay Area, we’ve definitely been lacking in the Korean taco department — eschewing it for things like cupcakes and Chinese tacos instead. But since I read about MoGo BBQ in SFoodie a few months back, and then later got an email from the good peoples at MoGo BBQ (Facebook, Twitter), I knew I had to find out what was up. They’re aiming to cover the entire Bay Area, from San Jose to Berkeley. Also, forgive me for the lack of posts in recent weeks. I’ve just moved to Germany!

1) Why is everyone so crazy about Korean tacos? Why are your Korean tacos the best around? What’s the one thing about Korean food that us non-Koreans don’t know about?

The reason Korean tacos have generated so much buzz, besides the fact that they’re delicious, is because they’re a uniquely Californian food. They can only exist in this kind of environment, where we have different types of ethnic communities and foods coming together. This kind of experimental fusion cuisine has normally been the domain of high-end restaurateurs. We’re kind of turning that idea on its head by making it available to the masses in a taco truck. As far as MoGo BBQ is concerned, we put a lot of love into making our food and don’t compromise when it comes to the ingredients. We even make our own kimchi. We take time to properly marinate the meat and make sure we cook it on the truck the same day. Those details are important, and they come out in the taste of our food. I think one thing that people don’t know about Korean food is that it’s one of the healthiest kinds of food you can eat. Kimchi is a huge health superfood – it strengthens immunity and fights disease. There’s really nothing it can’t do.

2) Tell me about your background in food/cooking/eating and what you did before starting the truck. What’s your favorite non-Twittering taco truck in the Bay Area?

I actually don’t have a background in the restaurant business–I just eat food and mess around in the kitchen here and there. I am a real estate investor on the side and have scaled back on that for obvious reasons. I do believe that food plays a special role in Korean cultures, and really many Asian cultures, in that food is about love and sharing. In my house, for instance, if someone cooks something, everybody shares it, even to the point of eating out of the same bowl. My mom would make something for us and say “Mogo,” meaning, “Eat this” – that’s how the name came about. It does take someone with experience and training to take that concept and those flavors to the people in terms of starting a business, and that’s where our chef, Chef Jojo, comes in. He’s been a chef at resorts in Napa for more than five years, and is really a genius with putting flavors together. He makes the food; I eat it. My favorite non-Twittering taco truck? David’s Taco Truck in Santa Clara.

3) What’s the best thing on the menu? (And don’t say “Everything.”)

The short rib burrito. I say that because it has most all the ingredients we carry on the truck: marinated meat, kimchi rice, cabbage slaw, chipotle sauce, everything. If you get the burrito, you get all of MoGo BBQ, basically. We’re also working on a new burrito that’s going to be extremely spicy, the ultimate challenge for Koreans and other spicy food eating masochists. I’m pretty sure that’ll be my favorite once we debut it. We welcome any suggestions for the name of our new ultra spicy burrito!

4) How do you determine your route? Why are you concentrating on the Peninsula/South Bay?

I grew up in the South Bay, so I wanted to bring it here first to see if all my friends would like it. At first, we targeted the local hangouts, like coffee shops and bars. Then word got out, and we started to get invited to companies like Facebook, Cisco, Moxsie, and Google. We try to hit the big festivals and events, like San Jose Bike Party, and we’re definitely going to take the MoGo BBQ truck to other areas soon. We’re going to be getting a second truck soon, and will be taking it up to San Francisco and the East Bay to expand our taco truck empire!

5) Hite or OB?

I might lose some friends over this answer–OB.

Kogi Scion prototype could be the future of taco trucks

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 4, 2009

Man, I wish I was in Los Angeles this week to see what may be how Kogi and MV Designz are rockin’ the show floor.

The Kogi xD Mobile Kitchen by MV Designz is pretty freakin’ sweet. It’s got a fridge and cutting board built into the left rear door, and ice chest and sink built into the right rear door, a BBQ grill and griddle that pop out of the back, a drawer for cooking utensils built into the left tail lift, and a condiments drawer built into the right tail light.

No word yet on exactly what building something like this costs, but my guess is that it ain’t cheap.

Scope the video (start at the 1:00 mark), previewing the ride at SEMA 2009 earlier this year.

Baja Fresh acquires Calbi truck, plans franchising

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on October 10, 2009

According to a report one week ago in Nation’s Restaurant News, Baja Fresh has acquired the Calbi truck.

The new franchised truck made its debut this past weekend at the West Coast Franchise Expo in Los Angeles.

Astute readers will remember that there was some controversy with Calbi when it comes to their version of Korean tacos.

As NRN notes:

The first version of the truck was often seen as very similar in color design to the Kogi truck.

To dispel confusion, Lee said the Calbi truck has a new design and logo that he said would further distinguish the brand as something entirely different from Kogi — aside from the common theme of Korean-Mexican food.

Alice Shin, a spokeswoman for Kogi, declined to comment on Calbi’s franchising plans, except to note that members of the Kogi team did not help Calbi get its start, as had been reported by some food bloggers. “We’ve never had a working relationship with Calbi,” she said.

Shin also said Kogi officials currently have no plans to franchise.

However, despite while Shin says that they’ve never worked with Calbi, Kogi blogged that they had in fact worked with the folks behind Calbi, before it even was Calbi, to help get them set up. Initially, Kogi had a blog post (now deleted) saying that they’d helped out:

It was so successfuL, in fact, that the owner approached us for more joint business pLans — but it just was a littLe too much, too fast. PLus, we’re of the nomadic sort, so we’re a bit wary of tattooing ourseLves with a partnership after just 2 weeks of a joint project. So we parted ways… onLy to find out that about a month or so later, these same peopLe compLeteLy copied our “business modeL” from the inside out, even going so far as taking the recipes that Chef Roy had so graciousLy made for them and seLLing them on a newLy stickered truck, trying to mimic the spirit of our bLog posts, starting up their own Twitter feed and using our past coLLaboration to heLp themseLves in their new endeavors. ALso… parking at the exact locations and cross streets that we park at.

It is understandabLe that some of the team members — weLL yes, feeL duped — but more than that, they feeL emotionaLLy gutted. We invited these peopLe into our famiLy and they took advantage of us. Whether it’s to compete with us or it’s because they don’t have the confidence to work with what they know and what they’ve got, I don’t know.

All I do know is that some of the team members feeL reaLLy hurt and betrayed, for had they onLy asked — had they just said, “Yo! We want to start up our own truck too. Can you heLp us?”, we totaLLy wouLd have given them a heLping hand in that direction.

Plus, it’s also important to note that Baja Fresh has tried their line of of Korean burritos before — calling them first Kogi, and later Gogi Burritos.

So, is this now the real mainstreaming of Korean tacos?

Baja Fresh introduces ‘Baja Kogi Gogi’ burrito

Posted by Martin do Nascimento on July 27, 2009

It is unlikely that when William Shakespeare wrote that now famous phrase “what’s in a name?” he had Korean Tacos in mind. Yet, there are hardly better words to express the controversy that has arisen around the word ‘Kogi’ in the world of tacos in the past few weeks.

It is quite possible that frequent readers of this taco-loving publication will recognize the word from a number of Korean taco-related articles recently published herein. Kogi BBQ, the Los Angeles based Korean BBQ taco truck that communicates its location to interested clients via Twitter, has received a lot of face time on this blog and elsewhere as a result of its innovative adaptation of Korean BBQ to the taco and the taco truck. Not only has the concept inspired some taco lovers to attempt to replicate Kogi BBQ’s recipes at home–especially we taco-deprived easterners–but it has even resulted in the spawning operations (see May 13th and May 31st posts).

Amazingly, some non-wheeled taco establishments have even begun picking up on Korean BBQ tacos. Recently, Baja Fresh the ubiquitous 300+ unit Tex-Mex burrito-and-taquería announced that it would begin serving its own version of Korean BBQ tacos under the name ‘Baja Kogi,’ as evidenced in the photo above.

Were it the case that Baja Fresh were simply adopting the Korean taco from Kogi BBQ as has already been done by other taquerías, what has become a major controversy may never have reached this blog as it there would have been no question as to the legality of the Baja Fresh’s actions. The origin of the controversy is to be found, however, in the adoption of not only the style of taco but also its name ‘kogi’ by Baja Fresh.

As I’m told, many copyright infringement proceedings are clear-cut cases, this one is not due to the meaning of the word Kogi in Korean: meat (고기). Does Kogi BBQ have exclusive rights to the word as a consequence of being the first firm to offer the Korean BBQ taco under that name? Whereas a word such as ‘meat’ or ‘vegetable’ could never be copyrighted in English, does the fact that the word ‘kogi’ is more widely recognized as a brand name than as a word mean that it is trademark infringement? These are questions that remain to be answered.

Update 9:35 am Pacific: Melanie Wong points out that Baja Fresh is now calling them ‘Baja Gogi‘ and not Baja Kogi. According to LAist, Chuck Rink, president of Fresh Enterprises, which owns Baja Fresh, released a statement clarifying what his company is doing:

Baja Fresh wants to clarify that our Korean BBQ style “Kogi” chicken and beef tacos and burritos, concept testing right now in one Irvine store, was by no means intended to seem “stolen” from the famous LA-area Kogi taco truck.

Rather, we were under the impression that “Kogi” was the generic word for Korean BBQ style. We have since learned “Gogi” is the general word and will be moving to change our naming to Gogi, for the Irvine store, and for any future roll outs of these products.

I’m still not sure what the difference between a “generic word” and a “general word” are, but whatev. -CF

How to make Korean tacos at home

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on May 31, 2009

[Image: David Dickey/Gourmet]

Everyone seems to be enjoying Korean (and other fusion tacos) in Los Angeles lately. There’s another Korean truck in Portland. And don’t forget about Marination Mobile, the new Hawaiian-Korean fusion truck hitting Seattle soon!

But what if you’re nowhere near Los Angeles or the Pacific Northwest? Fear not.

Gourmet magazine has done some homework and has come up with a few Korean taco recipes for your to try at home, reprinted below:


Adapted from Kye Soon Hong

Makes enough for about 18 tacos

Note: the same marinade may be used for kalbi, thin-sliced bone-in short ribs

• 1 1/2 pounds beef rib eye, thinly sliced (preferably from a Korean or Japanese market)
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
• 2 teaspoons mirin
• 2 teaspoons water

Combine all ingredients and marinate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Cook meat on a grill or in a skillet, then chop for tacos.


Adapted from Kye Soon Hong

Makes enough for about 12 tacos

• 1 pound pork shoulder, thinly sliced (preferably from a Korean or Japanese market)
• 3 tablespoons coarse-ground hot Korean red pepper powder
• 1 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons mirin
• pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients and marinate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Cook meat on a grill or in a skillet, then chop for tacos.


Adapted from Kye Soon Hong

Makes about 5 cups, enough for 4 burritos

• 4 cups cooked rice, cooled and chilled in refrigerator
• 4 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
• 2 cups Napa cabbage kimchi, the riper the better, diced
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 2 teaspoons sesame oil
• salt
• sesame seeds, for garnish
• sliced scallions, white and green parts, for garnish

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the kimchi and cook several minutes.

2. Raise the heat to high, add the rice and stir-fry several minutes, until rice is beginning to brown.

3. Stir in butter and sesame oil. Season with sesame seed and salt to taste and garnish with scallions.


Makes about 6 cups, enough for many tacos, with leftovers

For the dressing:
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
• 1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
• 1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the salad:
• 4 cups (5 ounces) shredded romaine lettuce
• 2 cups (3 ounces) shredded Napa cabbage
• 1/2 cup (2 ounces) thinly sliced onion
• toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Toss the salad in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Add more dressing to taste and garnish generously with sesame seeds.

In other news, the city of Yountville, CA has approved its first taco truck! No word on when or where it will be open. We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.