What is it?
It's what happens when Mexico collides with Korea and Japan and decides to party. With so much Korean food traditionally eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves or nori seaweed, it's surprising it took LA chef Roy Choi (no stranger to this on-trend column) until 2008 to launch the Kogi BBQ food truck and give the world the fusion street food it wanted: Korean barbecued beef wrapped in soft Mexican tortillas. Even the lingo gets a mash-up, with the latest menus listing Ta-Kors (Korean tacos) alongside Korritos (Korean burritos) and Korn dogs. Next up? The K-pizza.
Where is it?
At Mr Miyagi Japanese Food & Liquor in Melbourne, it's all about the nori taco, a crisp tempura-bubbled nori seaweed "taco" stuffed with rich, slow-grilled salmon belly, kim chi, mayonnaise and fermented soybean chilli sauce. "Mr Miyagi is all about taking the traditional and flipping it on its head," says chef Kyle Doody. "This is basically a summer meal my wife came up with, that I then banged into a tempura taco. It all works together in a very harmonious way."
At Chimac, the Ta-Kor wraps of fresh tortilla around beef bulgogi with shredded cabbage, pickles and spicy sauce, while at Koba K-BBQ, soft tacos are filled with beef, pork, chicken or tofu, with tomato salsa, kimchi and Korean slaw.
Sydney, too, loves its Asian tacos, with small bar Ko & Co in Surry Hills fusing Korean barbecue pork belly and fresh Mexican tortillas with yuzu honey margaritas on the side. "It's not just a matter of putting Mexican guacamole and Korean gochujang together," says co-owner Frank Lin. "You really have to pick and choose the right elements so it all works as well as the original."
Why do I care?
Because you like both Mexican and Asian food. And because it's crazy delicious.
Can I do it at home?
Just think of your favourite Mexican taco and Asianise it. So the refried beans become sushi rice or black beans, Mexican beef becomes Korean barbecue or fried chicken, and the chilli becomes… well, chilli.
Salmon and kimchi tacos
Serve with Kewpie mayonnaise and Sriracha chilli sauce, or make a quick spring onion mayo by whizzing four chopped spring onions with one teaspoon of grated ginger, sea salt, pepper and 60 grams of mayonnaise, to serve alongside.
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
100g cucumber, finely sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 x 200g salmon fillets
100g prepared kimchi
8 crisp Mexican taco shells
100g wild rocket leaves
2 tbsp coriander sprigs
Japanese togarashi or sesame seeds
1. Combine the vinegar and sugar, add the cucumber and leave for 15 minutes, then drain.
2. Heat the oil in a frypan and cook the salmon skin side down for five minutes, then turn and cook the other side to your liking, leaving the inside pink. Set aside to cool.
3. Finely chop the kimchi.
4. To assemble, set up the heated tacos (an upside down muffin tray makes a good stand). Gently pull the salmon apart into bite-sized lobes and lightly toss with the kimchi. Layer each shell with a base of rocket leaves, top with the salmon and kimchi, cucumber and coriander, and scatter with togarashi or sesame seeds.
Mr Miyagi Japanese Food & Liquor, 99 Chapel Street, Windsor 03 9529 5999
Chimac, Shop 1, 39 Peel Street, West Melbourne 03 9939 5916
Koba K-BBQ, 119 Hardware Street, Melbourne 03 9973 8425
Ko & Co, 6 Hunt St, Surry Hills 0428 944 741