I know I’m a bit late on joining the Korean-Mexican fusion bandwagon, but I finally decided to jump on board. When Roy Choi introduced kalbi tacos for the first time in Los Angeles, it became a huge hit. No one had thought to combine Korean BBQ meats with traditional Mexican dishes, but it works magically. Since I didn’t want to track down Roy’s famous food truck and wait in the infamous line, I decided to make my own version of kalbi tacos, right down to the marinade. Sure it can be a lot of work but the end result is very much worth it!
- 3 lb short ribs, sliced flanken style
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice syrup
- 3 1/2 tbsp mirin
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp sake
- 2 tbsp honey
- 3 ounces onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 1/2 ounces Asian pear, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup water
- 1 green onion, white stem only
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 dried chili de arbol
- 1 Asian pear, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 small cucumber, julienned
- 1 cup kimchi, chopped
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 16 corn tortillas, warmed
- Combine soy sauce - water in a blender and blender until smooth. Pour into a medium sauce pot. Stir in the green onion stem, bay leaf and chili de arbol. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat and strain the sauce using a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Let cool completely.
- Pour the marinade over the kalbi. Let marinade for 24 hours.
- Prepare the slaw by tossing together pear with cucumber, kimchi and scallions. Set aside.
- Prepare aioli by mixing together gochujang with mayonnaise and lime juice. Set aside.
- Preheat grill to high. Add the marinated kalbi and cook until seared and caramelized, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Remove from heat and finely chop the meat.
- Heat saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped kalbi with the juices and cook for 2 minutes or until the meat has caramelized. Remove from heat.
- Top warmed tortillas with kalbi, pear and kimchi slaw and finish with a drizzle of gochujang aioli. Serve while hot.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Enter any Korean BBQ restaurant and the strong aroma of meat will surround you, but in a good way. Korean BBQ restaurants are incredibly popular in Los Angeles, not only because you can get all the meat you can want for $25 but also because of the quality of the meat. Nowadays restaurants serve kobi steaks and various marinated pork belly, but some of the classics are bulgogi, thinly sliced brisket and of course, kalbi. Kalbi is marinated short ribs that are sliced flanken style. Cutting the meat flanken style allows the short ribs to be cooked in a much shorter amount of time but still be tender.
The marinade is the most important part when preparing the kalbi. Every household can have their own twist on how they prepare the meat but this is a recipe that I was taught. Usually kalbi is sold with the bone but I found boneless short ribs, which I thought would be easier for the tacos. If you cannot locate the specific cut, ask your butcher and he should be able to prepare it for you.
Whenever I prepare carne asada tacos, I double caramelize the meat, so I applied the same technique with these kalbi tacos. Grilling the ribs is the first step to caramelizing the outside. Chopping the meat and cooking it once more on the stove top caramelizes every piece of meat, resulting in incredibly flavorful kalbi.
Now you can’t just have Korean meat and a corn tortilla and call it a day. Since it’s a fusion dish, complete the taco with a kimchi and Asian pear slaw and gochujang aioli. Kimchi is fermented cabbage that is served as a side dish for every Korean meal (yes, literally every Korean meal). Gochujang is a chili paste that can be found in most Asian markets. Drizzle the sauce on the finished tacos and bite in!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.