TRADITIONAL taco trucks and roadside pop-ups have a long history in Los Angeles. But the idea of what a taco is has changed dramatically. Korean influences are the most recent,but the notion of what a taco is was up for grabs decades prior to its acceptance in the United States. Similar to the United States,Mexico is a melting pot with influences ranging from Asian to Middle Eastern. Al Pastor is a great example of this; it’s actually a Lebanese dish that over a couple generations morphed from lamb cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served on a pita-like bread into a pork dish made with pineapple. So the fact that we are seeing the concept of a taco being pushed even further here in Los Angeles, where we have a rich and diverse population, is only to be expected. Roy Choi is a chef of the people and knows Los Angeles extremely well. He understands the streets—having literally built this empire off of Kogi food trucks. It therefore makes perfect sense that he would be the one to blend the cultural influences that we both grew up with into an innovative brand and a food concept that would change the face of cuisine not just in Los Angeles, but the whole country. When Korean and Mexican cultures collided in Los Angeles, Roy was there to develop the Korean Taco; and the world was made forever a better place.Today in Los Angeles, even the most traditional of Mexican taco trucks are enjoying their customers’ expanding and adventurous palates. And it’s not just food trucks that are serving them up; the twist on the taco has even caught the eye of fine dining chefs such as José Andrés, who is also taking liberties with the concept and creating tacos at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. One of his offerings is the Japanese taco: thin-shaved cucumber cradles BBQ freshwater eel fillets sprinkled with black sesame seeds, shiso, wasabi and crunchy chicharron. The taco is definitely a fixture in the Los Angeles society and is here to stay for good, but only time will tell what it will taste and look like
12-14 corn tortillas
1 whole 4-5 pound pork butt
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
Kogi BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar sauce
1 cup shredded carrot, cut into matchsticks or julienned
1 cup green papaya, cut into matchsticks or julienned
4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
½ cup thinly sliced green onion
1 thinly sliced red Thai chili pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 ½ teaspoon lime juice
1 ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
1 Whisk together the rub ingredients in a small bowl.
2 If the roast is tied up with butcher string, untie it. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Rub the pork rub into the roast all over, reserving any leftover spice mix for later. Place in a large plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
3 Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Place the roast in the pan and brown on all sides.
4 Place the roast in a slow cooker, and add any reserved pork rub. Cook on the low setting for seven to eight hours, until the pork is fall-apart tender.
5 Use two forks to pull the meat apart into bite-sized shreds. Toss to coat the meat in juices from the roast. Keep covered and warm. 6 To make the Kogi BBQ sauce, just mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat and heat slowly until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
7 To make the dressing for the slaw, in a bowl mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil and sugar. Pour over slaw and mix gently.
To assemble tacos
1 Warm tortillas
2 Top each tortilla with pulled pork, Kogi BBQ sauce and the slaw. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
Chef Ben Ford
Chef Ben Ford has had a three- decade-long career working alongside several of the biggest culinary names at some of the most established restaurants in the United States, and has performed diplomatic missions or the US.Department of State. As a volunteer for the L.A.Mission, the renowned chef feeds 5,000 homeless on Christmas Eve each year. His restaurant, Ford’s Filling Station, located in the Delta Terminal at Los Angeles Airport and in the JW Marriott at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, is based on the fundamentals of teaching, cooking and foraging, and was awarded the prestigious Cochon 555 prize. All of this without relying on the Hollywood fame of his father Harrison Ford.