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13 Catt. 2: In re Kimchi BBQ Taco

2012 October 10

Opinion of CATTLEYA, J., in chambers.

Our regular reader will know that quite a few Asian fusion failures have come across the lunch table of the Supreme Cart. Too often, this Cart has found that fusion offers nothing to the palate but confusion. See, e.g., In re TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011) (disappointing Korean tacos); In re Seoul Food, 3 Catt. 1 (2011) (unfocused Korean burrito bowl); In re Sâuçá, 4 Catt. 3 (2011) (really-missed-the-mark Middle Eastern bánh mì). Still, I line up in front of food trucks that serve fusion because I believe that–in the right kitchen, by the right hands–it can be made well.

The Korean taco, in particular, is a knockout in my head. I can see sizzling galbi or bulgogi meat and spicy kimchi wrapped in a lightly toasted corn tortilla. The picture in my head isn’t so clear on the garnishes. Maybe the taco includes onion, cilantro, and Sriracha. Maybe it has lettuce, tomato, onion, and a cilantro-based sauce. Maybe there are jalapenos somewhere. Certainly, there is never any cheese.

The Cart’s first foray into fusion involved a Korean taco. It did not go well. What could have been great ended up being a Sriracha-and-cilantro taco with barely any Korean marinated meat and very fake kimchi. TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4.

Today, I decide the second Korean taco case to come before the Cart. The vendor is the straightforwardly-named Kimchi BBQ Taco (“KBT”).

Kimchi BBQ Taco


Because tacos are true “street food” as the Supreme Cart has defined the term, I must affirm KBT’s tacos unless I can show that they suffer from serious flaws. In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012) (explaining that a presumption of affirmance arises for true street food); In re Sol Mexican Grill, 9 Catt. 4 (2012) (holding that tacos are street food); In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011) (defining street food as “the kind[] of food[] that can be cooked in front of you and [is] meant to be eaten with your hands, without forks, while standing up”). I cannot prove that KBT’s tacos don’t belong on the street, and therefore I affirm.


KBT sells three tacos for $8. This is neither the best nor the worst price. TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (three tacos for $9); Sol Mexican Grill, 9 Catt. 4 (three tacos for $7); In re El Chilango, 12 Catt. 2 (2012) (three tacos for $6).

The ordering process requires two decisions. First, you have four meat options: 1) bulgogi; 2) spicy pork; 3) spicy chicken; or 4) tofu. Second, you choose your style of kimchi: 1) fresh red napa kimchi; 2) pan fried red napa kimchi; 3) sweet-n-spicy radish kimchi; or 4) bibimbap cabbage-carrot slaw. If you don’t want kimchi, you can opt for a sauce instead. There are two: 1) Korea’s Most Beloved Sauce (KMB); or 2) Korea’s Mad Spicy Sauce (KMS). KMB is described as “Sweet & Mild,” and KMS is “spicy but Dam [sic] Good.” (Okay, maybe there are three decisions that you have to make.)

Three Tacos

I ordered a bulgogi taco with fresh red napa kimchi, a spicy pork taco with bibimbap slaw, and a tofu taco with pan fried red napa kimchi. Each taco came with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and generous drizzles of two sauces. One was mayo-based and spicy, and the other was a mix of sweet and spicy (perhaps Hoisin and Sriracha?).

I never really feel full after eating just tacos for lunch, but KBT’s tacos were larger in size than other tacos being sold on the streets. See TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4; Sol Mexican Grill, 9 Catt. 4. After finishing KBT’s tacos, I felt satisfied. (Yes, I could have eaten more, but I didn’t need to.)

At first glance, KBT’s tacos didn’t look like the Korean tacos in my head for one major reason. KBT used soft flour tortillas, not corn tortillas. Although I prefer the taste and texture of corn tortillas, KBT’s flour tortillas functioned well as a vehicle to contain the taco filling. The tortilla’s elasticity allowed it to mold around the filling and hold everything together.

Now, about that filling. All of the meats (let’s assume for our purposes that tofu is meat) were well-prepared. The bulgogi was sweet. The pork was tender and spicy. The tofu was surprisingly flavorful. Each taco came with a heaping of the chosen meat. KBT didn’t skimp.

Thankfully, KBT’s kimchi was real kimchi. Cf. Takorean, 1 Catt. 4 (using a vinegared, not fermented, garnish). The red napa kimchi was enjoyable, but it was too mild for me. I couldn’t tell the difference between the fresh and pan fried versions, especially after they were doused with the two sauces. KBT’s version of bibimbap slaw was not my favorite. Instead of KBT’s cabbage and carrots, I would have preferred a more traditional slaw of julienned carrots and daikon radishes.

The lettuce and tomatoes were mere stomach-fillers for me. Yes, I suppose they added a cool, light, and fresh element to the taco, but they made the taco feel too Tex-Mex for my liking. Plus, they took the focus away from the kimchi. KBT’s taco should follow the lead of its name: the main players in the taco should be the Korean barbecue and the kimchi.

The two sauces were spot on in terms of flavor. They kept a decent buzz in my mouth throughout the eating experience. However, they didn’t kick up the heat as much as I would have liked, and I wished I had added an extra squirt of Sriracha.

Between the two sauces and the juices oozing from the meat, the tacos were messy. Juices dripped into my hands. They dripped and dripped and pooled at the bottom of my Styrofoam container. By the time I got to my third taco, the tortilla was completely soaked in the drippings. It was a sticky mess to pick up, and my hands were coated with a caked-on layer all the way back to my chambers. (This could have been avoided if I had known to get extra napkins.)


KBT’s tacos were tasty, although they weren’t my dream Korean tacos. For me, the flour tortilla, lettuce, and tomatoes made them more Tex-Mex than Korean. But, I can say that they were the best Korean tacos that I’ve had so far. (N.B. I’ve only tried two Korean taco vendors so far.)

AFFIRMED. It is so ordered.

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