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Korean Style Tacos with Kogi BBQ Sauce

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My parents live in Los Angeles and until just recently, so did my brother. About three times a year, I go back to LA to hang out with the family, get my In-N-Out Burger fix and get the very important big dose of smog and traffic. It’s important because it gives me that fantastic talking point when the Los Angelenos ask me, “why the heck did you move to Bradenton, Florida?” Hmmm…well, let me cough the reasons!

Just a few days ago, my brother, Jay, packed his bachelor belongings in a moving truck and moved to Wichita, Kansas to start a brand new fancy job as a Doctor of Cardi-$dollar$-gy. At first, I was like, “Are you crazy? Giving up living in Beverly Hills to go live in Kansas?”

Not that I have anything against the good state of Kansas, it’s just that it’s a totally different lifestyle than the fast-paced, Botox’d, diamond-studded city of Angels.

Last night, Jay called. He’d just arrived after a couple days of driving to his new home, “Hey sis, you must come and visit. FOR THE BAR-B-QUE!!!” He went on to describe the pulled pork and smoked ribs that he’s sampled in the past 24 hours.

That was a good enough reason to commit one of the most important holidays of the year, Thanksgiving, to haul my family to Wichita, Kansas for a week’s vacation. And it got me thinking. Take award-winning barbequed pulled pork and combine it with an Korean style barbeque sauce and a puckery Asian cucumber relish. The result is something you’d find on the street corner of Cahuenga and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the Kogi BBQ truck.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Kogi is the hottest thing to hit the streets of Los Angeles (literally!), smashing standard taco truck fare with the zing and spice of Korean flavors. They use Twitter to announce their itinerary for that evening and serve hundreds of people at each stop. Sometimes, the lines form an hour before the truck even arrives and snakes carelessly around cars, fire hydrants and benches.

I haven’t sampled their fare, I gave one of the owners, Alice Shin, a call and told her that I’d like to make a pulled pork taco from smoked pulled pork. Alice was able to nudge their chef, Roy Choi, into creating a BBQ sauce to match the deep smoky flavor of traditional BBQ’d pulled pork.

This recipe is mid-west meets Los Angeles. Good luck with your new adventure, my brother.

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Korean Style Tacos with Kogi BBQ Sauce on Daytime TV

I would have loved to pair good ol’ spicy kimchi with these tacos, but my local Asian store had really sad looking kimchi. So, last minute, I decided to create a quick cucumber pickle for television as well as the photo shoot.

Dr. BBQ and I tag teamed that morning on a Daytime segment – he made his very famous pulled pork smoked in the Big Green Egg in a Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with Spicy Tangy Slaw (I also posted the video) – and I took his leftovers to make these Korean Style Tacos with Kogi BBQ Sauce.

hey, p.s. the video shows you what happens when you forget your dang mandoline and end up slicing cucumbers by hand in a hurry. They look like hockey pucks. Use a mandoline.

Thank you Sur La Table for providing the Shun Perfect Paring Knife and the beautiful Foldable Grilling Tools

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Korean Style Tacos with Kogi BBQ Sauce Recipe

This is a great way to use your leftover pulled pork or roasted chicken. The BBQ Sauce from Kogi BBQ was created by Chef Roy to be strong flavored enough to match the smokiness of BBQ’d pork or roasted chicken. You can add use kimchi (spicy pickled Korean cabbage) to top the tacos, or make a quick cucumber pickle like I have. The recipe for the quick cucumber pickle is below.

serves 4

1 pound cooked pulled pork or cooked shredded chicken
12 corn or flour tortillas
1/4 cup Quick Cucumber Pickle (below) or prepared kimchi (Korean pickled, spicy cabbage)

For the Kogi BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar has dissolved and mixture is smooth. You can make this a few days in advance and store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

For the Quick Cucumber Pickle
I like using English cucumbers or Japanese cucumbers – the skin is thinner and they have less seeds. If you have a Mandoline Slicer it certainly will make the job much easier.

1 large English cucumber (or 2 Japanese cucumbers), sliced very thinly
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh chili pepper (or more depending on your tastes)
generous pinch of salt

Mix together all ingredients. You can make this a few hours in advance and store in refrigerator, however the longer it sits, the less “crunch” you’ll have. I like making this cucumber pickle 1 hour prior, storing in refrigerator and serving it cold on the tacos for texture and temperature contrast.

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Other great recipes from around the web

Kimchi Recipe by David Lebovitz
Bulgogi Kimchi Tacos by My Korean Kitchen
Korean Beef Tacos by Week of Menus
Korean Short Rib Tacos by Tasty Eats at Home
Kimchi Pork Belly Pizza by No Recipes

Comments 64

  1. Kamran Siddiqi (The Sophisticated Gourmet)

    Jaden, which do you prefer to top the tacos with kimchi or the cucumber pickle slices?

    -Kamran

    Would rather have kimchi! BUT some people don’t like kimchi or can’t find it at the stores – then the cucumber pickle is perfect! It’s got the same crunch and tang as kimchi – and with enough chili pepper – enough spice too. ~jaden

  2. Karen Moore

    It was instant culture shock when I moved to Wichita from Montréal, Canada 5 years ago. But like your bother, I discovered the smoky, low-and-slow, fall-apart-tender cooking that is Kansas barbeque, and fell in love at first bite. Wichita has great BBQ. Kansas City has exquisite BBQ. And now it’s on my list of stuff I would have to have with me on a deserted island. Above toilette paper.

  3. Jean

    Oh Jaden! Be still my beating heart!

    Last night our friend Laura (who’s father is Korean) made a feast at our house when the picnic she planned for her dad’s bday got rained out. The party was moved to our house and it was incredible! She did traditional Korean bbq, kogi, kimchi, rice sticks, whole butter fish, and on and on! We loved every bite! It was such a culinary adventure.

    Now I see this! You know I’m going to have to try my hand at this. And now I know where all the Korean markets are here in Columbus because I shopped with her on Friday!

    And I would love to get a bite from the Kogi taco truck :-)

    p.s. If your brother is interested in authentic German sausages and incredible thick cut bacon and other great stuff from a wonderful little shop, let me know! I can hook him up :-)

  4. Diana

    I love Korean food. Lived in Korea three years as a young kid and think that started my preference for Asian food. I’m making kimchi in the next couple weeks and will have to try it with this BBQ sauce. Yum!

  5. Anh

    Fantastic idea. I moved to Sydney and lived among so many Koreans. Gotta love some Korean spiciness ;)

  6. Diana

    Oh yeah, forgot to say I just made a similar relish but with zucchini. I like to use a vegetable peeler to make “noodles” with zucchini. Posting it while I’m on vacation, it was SPICY!

  7. Aliiiiiiiice

    The cucumber was such a great choice! CooL and refreshing, it cuts through that pork and sticky sweet sauce making it nice and balanced and perfect for summer. Kimchi would have been another super strong fLavor that might’ve overwheLmed that yummy pork and bbq sauce.

    It aLso makes it pretty to look at.

    I wish you couLd have made these for me!

  8. Adriana

    Looks so yummy! I love your blog and I added a link (to your blog) on my blog. Hope that’s okay with you.

    Cheers! :)

  9. Simone (junglefrog)

    That looks absolutely delicious although I am not so sure I can find that sauce here. Having said that; we do have asian markets so maybe I just have to look a little harder!

  10. Betty

    Jayden – love the idea and recipe. I’ll be making these this weekend. I’ll definitely use the kimchi – makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

  11. Kristin

    Dang it. Now I’m going to have to go to the Asian market on the other side of town to get that paste. Do you have any recommendations for a substitute?

    Hmmm…for this recipe, there’s not really a substitute, but it is a very popular Korean ingredient. Your Asian market should have it! ~j

  12. Alta

    I just posted my take on Kogi BBQ tacos the other day! Yours is decidedly different than mine, but looks SO good! I love the cucumber pickle, so simple and delicious! I might have to try this!

  13. Jeff

    I first heard about your site when you mentioned it at Martin Yan’s appearance at Publix on Friday night. After seeing these tacos I’m happy I followed up on it. The fusion of American BBQ and Korean BBQ seems too good to be true and I can’t wait to try this at home even though I’ll have to settle for oven-made pulled pork. I look forward to more great recipes from your site.

  14. Marc @ NoRecipes

    Nice! I lined up for an hour and a half when they made a cameo appearance with the Dessert Truck here in Manhattan and there were only 3 people in front of me when they ran out!

    Everytime I see a fare sale to LA, I’ve actually paused for a moment to contemplate hopping on a plane to try their tacos out, glad to see I can now try it without leaving New York:-)

  15. Sam

    Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. And now I have an excuse for a BBQ party…

  16. joey

    Now I just have to find myself some pulled pork! These look awesome! Good kimchi is easier to find over here than good pulled pork!

  17. tara

    My husband taught in Korea and would surely adore me if these were dinner one night. Good gracious woman, those look fantastic.

  18. rose

    PERFECT! My boyfriend & I have been talking about this Kogi BBQ Truck for a little while now. We live in Orange County, but keep waiting for the opportunity to find ourselves in LA near the truck :) We’re making this tonight! We have most of the ingredients! Hooray! Thanks for sharing, beautifully done as always!

  19. Gavan, The Healthy Irishman

    Hey Jaden, great recipe. Kogi is a regular here in Venice so I see the lines of people lining up to get a taste. I’ve had it once and it was great. I love how they use twitter too, ingenious.

  20. Kevin

    That gochujang bbq sauce sounds good! I really like the idea of the Korean/Mexican blend here! Great idea!

  21. Arnold

    Great post and photos!

    My mom asked me to “cater” for her and her friends next weekend. I’m going to try this out on them along with some kalbi tacos.

    What do you think about julienning the cucumbers instead of slicing them?

    either way! ~jaden

  22. Kristin

    So I finally got my hands on some gochujang and made these. They were outstanding! Thanks for sharing! We are big fans of smoked pork butt, so I think I’m going to be making these a lot from now on.

  23. Dan

    Looks great. I think to give it an even more Korean vibe, put cucumber kimchi (oi-kimchi) on top. Similar to your cucumber topping, but spicier. I’ll have to get the smoker ready this wknd.

  24. Gabrielaskitchen

    Oh my! I’m definitely making these. The Korean Taco craze has hit NYC but, as usual, I’m compelled to cook them myself! Thanks for the recipe.

  25. tacogusto

    i just found these guys doing them out of dokebi in williamsburg
    grass-fed short ribs and berkshire pork korean bbq style.

    they were pretty good i think. need to try them sober this week.

  26. Susan

    The best Korean tacos are at Hashigo in Costa Mesa on Bristol Street and Paularino. They also have a dish called “The Korrito” and it’s a Korean version of a Mexican wet burrito – it is awesome!

  27. living_insanity

    I had what Cheesecake Factory calls a Vietnamese taco last night and it was so good I looked for a recipe today. Your Korean tacos sound very similar and I’ll be trying out the recipe soon :) thank you!

    I did link to your site in my review. Leave me a comment if you want me to remove the recommendation to check out your recipe.

  28. Marewood

    Hello from Wichita. We do have botox here, but no Kogi BBQ trucks.
    We can’t wait to try this out. Maybe if I eat enough, I’ll smooth out all the wrinkles and won’t need botox. ;o)

  29. Scott

    I agree, thier Vietnamese Tacos were sooo tasty!!!! All else, unfortunately, except the cheesecake was pretty lame. Very bland and flavorless, ‘American Kobe’ is an oxymoron, not something fabulous!

  30. Tom N.

    Kogi tacos are a treat and a break from your regular tacos.Give em a try.

  31. Langour

    This recipe rocked. Didn’t have the pulled pork, so I made Korean pork BBQ with the cucumber and some old funky (the best) kimchi. Amazingly, the corn tortillas work with the sweet/BBQ meat and cucumber/kimchi side…amazing stuff. I can’t say enough…two thumbs up!!!

  32. Natalie

    So so good! I’ve been trying out a few Korean inspired dishes lately and the sauce on these was absolutely delectable. Shared it with all my coworkers. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  33. Connie

    You take the most mouth-watering pictures. I have a 1.5 gallon jar of kimchi in the fridge….can’t wait to this recipe out with chicken. Yummy! Thank you for sharing :-)

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