Remember when I told you that we lived and taught in Korea a few years back? And how much we loved, loved, loved a dish called galbi, which is essentially uber-flavorful meat grilled in the center of your table, and lovingly wrapped in lettuce leaves with a variety of condiments? And how Korean food is generally amazing?
Now let me tell you about the other side of being a foreigner in Korea. Especially a foreigner who comes from one of the most ethnically and deliciously diverse cities in America. And how sometimes, as a foreigner, you just needed to eat something from home, something very non-Korean, and how you would go to ridiculous lengths to do so.
Lengths like this: We would travel forty-five minutes by train, plus a ten-minute walk for good Indian food. We went ten months without a decent taco until we finally discovered the restaurant Tiger Tiger. To get to Tiger Tiger meant winding through some crazy-narrow back alleys to find this literal hole-in-the-wall, not unlike a mouse in a maze, frantically seeking a piece of cheese.
And speaking of cheese, our friend Lauren would take a two-hour bus ride to get to a decent chunk of cheddar. Two hours. That’s dedication.
Dedication to what, you might ask. Taco Tuesdays.
Friends and family back home would send over taco seasoning packets which were absolutely impossible to find there (much like other festive favorites like limes and cilantro). We had packets upon packets. So we instituted Taco Tuesdays, wherein we would gather with a few other ex-pats, who would potluck-ily provide the fixins’ like the aforementioned two-hour cheese, and shells, and unbelievably expensive salsa, and we would feast on tacos, once a week.
So that’s why it’s funny to me that we made Korean tacos. They taste like Korea, but in a taco, and they were amazing. This irony is not lost on me.
I don’t think I say this too often on this blog, but YOU HAVE TO TRY THESE TACOS. Eric gave them an official “Top-Five-Dishes-You’ve-Ever-Made” status, and I have to admit, I can’t wait to try them again. Please don’t be intimidated by beef ribs or what looks like a long ingredient list. They are worth it, and I promise you, if you make them, you will eat most of the meat before your guests ever arrive, and you may sneak out of bed to finish the leftover slaw in the middle of the night because it’s that good.
The meat in these tacos is super tender and bursting with honest-to-goodness Korean flavor thanks to the Korean standbys like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and rice vinegar. The slaw is more “Asian” than “Korean,” per se, with the addition of cilantro and lime, but the sweetened onions mixed with the bite of rice vinegar, carrots, sesame oil, and the slight crunch of toasted sesame seeds made a highly flavorful and tangy slaw that couldn’t pair better with the meat.
Even though we started with six pounds of beef ribs, by the time the fat cooked off and the bones were removed, this didn’t yield as much as you’d expect. So we served a simple rice pilaf alongside of it to make the meal a little more filling.
I truly hope you try these tacos, no matter where you live or what foreign food you’re craving. Taco Tuesdays just got Koreanized.
(slaw & rice recipe from me!)
(yields 5-6 servings with the rice)
This crockpot Korean beef rib taco recipe is bursting with flavor. The crockpot yields tender beef that is flavored with a super simple Korean sauce. The slaw is more "Asian" than Korean, with the addition of cilantro and lime juice, but pairs perfectly with the savory-sweet meat. We served this with the included rice pilaf because even though we doubled the rib recipe, the meat didn't yield a ton once it cooked down and we removed the bones and fat. We LOVED these tacos and hope you do too! (Notes: The rib recipe is listed here as doubled from the original recipe. With the double portion of ribs, we had the perfect ratio of slaw to meat!)
10 cloves garlic, minced
3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 c. soy sauce
1 c. + 6 tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 c. rice vinegar (also called rice wine vinegar)
4 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
6 lbs. beef ribs (could be called short ribs or back ribs also)
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
2 pinches salt
1/2 of a large onion - very thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled then "sliced" into long thin strips with your peeler
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. or drizzle sesame oil
1 sqeeze lime juice (about 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. fresh ginger, FINELY minced
1/4 c. toasted sesame seeds
Optional Rice Pilaf ingredients:
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/3 c. onion, minced
1 c. brown rice
2 c. water
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce (to taste)
lime juice (to taste)
For the Ribs:
Mix garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes.
Place ribs in a greased crockpot and pour sauce over ribs. Turn crock pot on low heat. Cover with a lid and cook for 6-8 hours, moving the ribs around 2 or 3 times so that they all get a turn being immersed in the sauce.
When the time is up and meat is fork tender, remove meat from pot, discard bones. Place meat in the fridge to chill to touch.
Meanwhile, skim fat off the top of the sauce. Place sauce in a pan and simmer until thickened (about 25 mins.)
Once meat is cool to touch, pull apart with your fingers or with 2 forks. Pour some sauce back into the meat and reheat (you can use your crockpot on high for about 20 mins. or your microwave). You can serve the extra sauce on the side (goes especially well with rice recipe included).
For the Slaw:
(To toast the sesame seeds, heat a small pan over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and stir for about 4 mins. until golden brown and aromatic. Remove immediately and set aside.)
In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add the sliced onions to the mixture and let sit for about 15 mins. to pickle & sweeten the onions.
Pour onions & mixture into a medium bowl. Add carrot pieces. Gently stir in your red pepper flakes, cilantro, sesame oil, lime juice, and ginger.
Reserve toasted sesame seeds until JUST before serving so they retain their crunch. Can be made a few hours ahead of time and kept in the fridge, sans sesame seeds.
(Optional Rice: we served this with the tacos to make the meal a little more filling)
In a pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, ginger, and onions for 3-5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add rice, stir to toast the rice for about 2 more minutes. Add the water. Bring the mixture to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in soy sauce and lime juice to taste.