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Korean Tacos with Kimchi Salsa

Korean Tacos filled with grilled gochujang-marinated steak bring together the absolute best of Mexican and Korean cuisines.

horizontal shot of 3 korean tacos: corn tortillas filled with sliced steak, kimchi and pico de gallo salsa, and chopped cilantro. In the background are lime wedges, sliced red cabbage, and cilantro leaves.

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If you love tacos and you love spicy Korean beef, this recipe is going to blow your mind. Juicy, tender steak is marinated in a sweet, spicy, and savory combination of gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste), honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

The meat is grilled to medium-rare perfection on a barbecue grill. Next it is sliced and loaded into corn tortillas along with a spicy and tangy kimchi pico de gallo salsa. A drizzle of sriracha mayo finishes it off.

Who invented Korean tacos?

Korean tacos are one of the most delicious examples of fusion cuisine. These days, you’ll find them all over the country, mostly sold from food trucks. But they were invented and popularized on the West Coast.

The story is now legend. Chefs Roy Choi and Mark Manguera, who worked together at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, wondered why no one had tried putting Korean barbecue into tacos. And so they did.

Korean tacos were born in 2008. That’s when Choi and Manguera began selling corn tortillas stuffed with spicy pork, chicken, and tofu from their Kogi Korean BBQ trucks in Los Angeles.

Choi and Manguera seasoned their fillings with gochujang and other Korean flavors. And they topped the tacos with savory-spicy Korean-influenced toppings like kimchi, sesame-dressed slaw, sriracha mayo, and more.

What is inside?

Kogi’s original Korean taco was filled with spicy pork bulgogi. My Korean beef tacos have similar flavors but are filled with gochujang-marinated steak.

It’s finished off with a tangy-spicy kimchi salsa and a drizzle of sriracha mayo.

What ingredients do you need?

For such a flavor bomb of a dish, you’ll be surprised by how short the ingredient list actually is.

  • Steak (use any good barbecuing steak. I love flatiron, and also often use flank or skirt.)
  • Gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste)
  • Soy sauce
  • Honey
  • Sesame oil
  • Corn tortillas
  • Kimchi
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sriracha
vertical shot of 3 korean tacos: corn tortillas filled with sliced steak, kimchi and pico de gallo salsa, and chopped cilantro. In the background are lime wedges, sliced red cabbage, and cilantro leaves.

What is gochujang and where do you get it?

Gochujang is a Korean fermented chile paste. It is made from hot chiles, soybeans, rice, and salt. It’s is a thick, dark red paste. The flavor is spicy, but it is also loaded with intense umami, and a little hint of sweetness, too.

It comes in small and large tubs, which I buy at a local Korean Market (if you’re local to me in the East Bay, I go to Koreana Plaza on Telegraph and 27th in Oakland. It’s amazing!) It is also available in larger Asian markets or online.

Because it is a fermented condiment, like miso paste or soy sauce, gochujang will last a very long time in your refrigerator. Go ahead and buy a good-sized tub of it. I always surprise myself with how quickly I go through it. These days, I buy 2 or 3 tubs at a time.

You can also use gochujang to make my Air Fryer Korean Fried Chicken or Gochujang Chicken and other scrumptious Korean dishes.

How do you make Korean tacos?

  1. Making Korean tacos is almost as easy as eating them. Start by mixing gochujang, soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil together. Add the meat and turn to coat.
  2. Cover the meat and refrigerate it for at least an hour or as long as 48 hours.
  3. Remove the meat from the marinade (sadly, the marinade gets discarded at this point.) Grill over medium-high heat on a barbecue grill or grill pan until the steak reaches your desired doneness (hint: medium-rare.)
  4. Remove the meat from the grill and let rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain.
  5. While the meat is resting, you can prep your tortillas and fillings.
  6. Heat the tortillas however you normally like to heat them. I do them one-by-one on the flame on my gas cooktop. You can also wrap a stack of them in a damp dishtowel and heat them in the microwave for a minute or so. Or wrap in foil and heat in a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes or so.
  7. To make the salsa, chop kimchi, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro and toss to combine.

Tips for success

Choose a steak that is really good for grilling, something nicely marbled and very tender. Good choices include tenderloin, New York strip steak, skirt steak, flank steak, or flatiron. In this case, look for a boneless steak since you’ll want to slice it after cooking.

Be sure to let the steak rest before you slice it! This will ensure that your steak is tender, juicy, and delicious.

If you don’t want to grill your meat, you can slice it thinly when it is raw and then marinate the slices. Stir fry the meat with thinly sliced onions in a large skillet.

For the salsa, you can skip chopping tomatoes, onions, and cilantro and just use a store-bought pico de gallo instead. Just add chopped kimchi.

For extra spicy tacos, add pickled jalapeno slices or extra sriracha. I like to add saamjang, a spicy Korean condiment made of seasoned soybean paste, chiles, and other ingredients.

What to serve with Korean tacos

The fiery filling begs for a refreshing, crisp salad. A green salad or a crunchy slaw with sesame- or miso-based dressing would be a great choice.

Japanese Cucumber Salad would also be a refreshing partner. Or serve guacamole and chips alongside.

vertical shot of 3 korean tacos: corn tortillas filled with sliced steak, kimchi and pico de gallo salsa, and chopped cilantro. In the background are lime wedges, sliced red cabbage, and cilantro leaves.

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Yield: Makes about 12 fish cakes

Thai Fish Cakes

low angle shot of fish cakes on a plate with dipping sauce and limes in the background

These easy Thai Fish Cakes are loaded with the flavors of lemongrass, cilantro, and hot chilies. This recipe uses Thai curry paste, which provides layers of flavor without requiring a ton of ingredients.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound white fish fillet, cut into several pieces
  • ¼ cup cilantro, plus additional for serving
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons red or green curry paste (see note)
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 makrut lime leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced Chinese long beans (or sub green beans)
  • ½ cup cooking oil (or enough to fill your skillet about ½-inch deep)
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the fish, curry paste, egg white, fish sauce, and sugar and pulse until the mixture forms a thick paste. Add the cornstarch and pulse until it is well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sliced beans.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, until it shimmers.
  3. Form the fish mixture into balls a little larger than golf balls and then flatten them into ½-inch-thick patties.
  4. Add the patties to the skillet, 3 or 4 at a time. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until deep golden brown. Transfer the cooked patties to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat until all of the patties have been formed and fried.
  5. Serve hot with lime wedges, cilantro, and Sweet Thai Chili Dipping Sauce, if desired.

Notes

1. You can use just about any white fish for this recipe. I’ve made it with both cod and catfish. Other options would be haddock, pollock, grouper, or snapper.

2. You can use either red or green Thai curry paste in this recipe, though red is more common. I love green curry paste, though, and think it works just as well in these fish cakes. I tested this recipe using Mae Ploy red curry paste and Mae Ploy green curry paste. One tablespoon of the red was plenty, while I found the green (which is less spicy) required 2 tablespoons to really pop the flavor.

3. Whichever type of curry paste you choose, be careful how much you use. The spice level can vary widely between brands, so start with a smaller amount if you are not used to very spicy food. I usually use Mae Ploy curry pastes, which are very spicy. If I use more than 1 or 2 tablespoons, it is too spicy for my family. Thai Kitchen brand is easy to find in supermarkets, and it is much milder. I would use at least 3 tablespoons of it.



Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 320Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 71mgSodium 729mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 2gSugar 6gProtein 21g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

Yield: Serves 4

Korean Tacos

overhead shot of 4 korean tacos. corn tortillas filled with sliced steak, tomatoes, cilantro, and kimchi on a black plate. Also on the plate are shredded purple cabbage and lime halves and lime wedges.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pound flatiron steak
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, diced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped kimchi
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sriracha (use more or less to taste)
  • 8 corn tortillas

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the garlic, soy sauce, gochujang, and honey and mix well.
  2. Add the steak and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
  4. Remove the steak from the marinade, discarding the marinade. Grill for 5 to 7 minutes per side, until desired doneness is reached.
  5. Remove the steak from the grill and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  6. While the steak is resting, make the salsa. In a bowl, combine the tomato, onion, kimchi, and cilantro and toss to mix.
  7. Make the sriracha mayo. In a small bowl, stir togehter the sriracha and mayonnaise.
  8. Slice the steak thinly across the grain.
  9. Heat the tortillas either wrapped in foil in the oven, wrapped in a damp dishtowel in the microwave, on the grill, or 1 at a time on a gas burner.
  10. To assemble the tacos, fill each with some of the meat, some of the salsa, and a hefty drizzle of the sriracha may.

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Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 564Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 100mgSodium 2347mgCarbohydrates 45gFiber 5gSugar 17gProtein 34g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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