This recipe will change your life

When I’m finished this blog, I think I might start a blog about tacos.

Tacos are my favourite thing ever. All I wanted for my wedding was mini tacos. Unfortunately, this was not an option at the beautiful converted barn in the Cotswolds where I got married. Instead, we had chorizo on toast, local smoked salmon, and grilled halloumi with rosemary, which was great too, because halloumi is also my favourite thing ever. I can’t even begin to imagine what a halloumi taco would taste like – in fact, I am surprised I’ve never tried it. Watch this space.

I did get to marry my best friend, and the love of my life. But there were no tacos.

Following on my last post based loosely around Korean BBQ, I thought I would share this recipe for KOREAN TACOS (with Asian coleslaw and sriracha sour cream) adapted from The Partial Ingredients, a pretty kick-ass cooking blog I discovered a while back.

I’ve eyeballed the measurements for this dish every time I’ve made it, and it’s turned out really well, albeit differently, every time.  You may not need to be super precise but all of the components to the recipe are key.

Use roughly the same amount of each ingredient for the marinade, using three times the amount of soy sauce for each other measure. If you have time to actually roast a whole chicken Korean style, do it – otherwise skin-on breast will do. What you want is for the marinade to cling to the chicken, so if you need a pinch of corn flour, it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

Chicken breast
Soy sauce
Lemon juice
Brown sugar
Honey
Shaoxing wine (I got ID’d for this at Tesco)
Mirin
Garlic and ginger, minced
Sriracha sauce
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds

For the coleslaw:

Chinese cabbage, sliced
Red onion, finely chopped
Green onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
Garlic and ginger, minced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Fish sauce – 1 tbsp
Mirin – 2 tbsp
Sriracha – 2 tsp

For the sriracha sour cream:

1 cup sour cream
Sriracha – 2 tbsp

Corn taco shells – buy them fresh. You can use Old el Paso ones if you want but the authentic ones work best. I buy mine from Casa Morita in Brixton. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the cactus ones.

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Lime and coriander to garnish

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Directions

1. Prepare your marinade. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl – add chicken and set aside. The longer you leave it, the better.

2. Invite some friends over under the auspices that it is Halloween and you are going to carve some pumpkins and have a few drinks, even if really you just want to show off your tacos.

3. Combine the ingredients for the coleslaw in a large bowl, and set aside.

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4. Mix the sour cream with 1 tablespoon of sriracha – and, you guessed it, set aside. This is actually a great recipe for a night where you want to prep ahead, carve some pumpkins, and have some drinks, not necessarily in that order. I meant to write this blog post a while ago, clearly – I’m not carving pumpkins in January – not even I like Halloween that much.

5. Have some drinks – two’s good, three’s probably too much before standing over a hot grill pan.

6. Cook the chicken slowly in a hot grill pan, so that the marinade caramelises but doesn’t burn. Alternatively, roast a chicken.

Meanwhile, heat your tortillas in the oven. I trust you’ve bought them fresh.

7. The tacos taste best if the chicken is shredded, but this is a massive pain. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces; serve in the corn tacos topped with the coleslaw, sour cream and a generous amount of coriander and lime.

I didn't say I knew how to photograph tacos.

I didn’t say I knew how to photograph tacos.

8. Enjoy with friends! You’re welcome.

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Living the Amerikorean dream, or Seoul Food

I went to Korea once. I had a 17 hour layover, on a cheap flight from Bangkok to Montreal, via Seoul and Chicago. I had grand plans – palaces, temples, more palaces, stand on the border of North Korea and South Korea and hop back and forth, saying “North Korea, South Korea, North Korea, South Korea,” over, and over again. I know you can picture me doing this.

I learned one thing from my brief stint in this bustling Asian megacity – don’t bother going on a Monday. Everything is closed. Palaces – closed. Temples? Closed. DEMILITARIZED ZONE? Closed! Hopes – dashed. There would be no hopping.

But, the bus from the airport is free. I suppose I could have gone to Gyeongbokgung Palace – that one is closed on Tuesdays – but instead, I wandered aimlessly through the eerily quiet city center, flip-flop-claden on a chilly November day. I lasted about 4 hours, and then went back to the airport to use the free wifi – I’d been backpacking for 10 weeks, and thought it was a good idea to let my parents know I was on my way home. Plus this was 2008 – they didn’t have wifi in temples back then.

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What I didn’t do in Seoul (why??) was have a meal. So, have I actually been to Korea? I’m not sure if this pit stop counts, if I apply the criteria that I normally use to determine whether or not I’ve really, truly visited a country. These criteria being, mostly, did I eat?

I was, in fact, introduced to Korean food a few years earlier by my friend Jane, who, incidentally, is Korean. She prepared a Korean feast for me and four other friends in her small Ottawa apartment on Valentine’s Day – her Korean pancakes, or “jeon” would become legendary in our circles. She dazzled us with her chopstick skillz, and left us in awe of her flawless ability to converse with her mom in two languages, when she called home to ask a question about one of the recipes. “Jane, it’s probably very early in Korea,”  I reminded her as she picked up the phone. “Don’t be stupid,” she reminded me back, “My parents live in Yellowknife.

Fun fact: According to a 2011 census, the total number of Koreans living in Yellowknife is 30.

There is no shortage of Korean food in London – it’s like, a thing. All of the hipsters are eating it! Well, they’re eating a hybrid of American and Korean street food which is mighty, mighty tasty. Some of the most popular Korean food traders right now include Kimchinary (otherwise known as Korean tacos otherwise known as the best idea ever) and Busan BBQ, a cross between Texas and Seoul (or Pyongyang) in a burger.

There are at least three reliable choices for a good bibimbap near my office – I eat Korean food a fair bit now, thanks to Jane. The aptly named Bibimbap in Soho is a good spot for beginners. My favourite part is the rice crust at the bottom of the bowl.

The one Korean delicacy I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying before my current culinary journey was Korean barbecue, or gogigui, which means simply meat + roasting. I love Asian languages – the literal translation of the Chinese word for popcorn, for example, is exploding rice flower. They said it like it is, which is a quality I like in a nation.

Usually prepared on a charcoal grill built in to your table, I wasn’t 100% sure that in the UK this was allowed for health and safety reasons, but what the hey?

Myung Ga in Soho was chocablock at 7 pm on a Monday night. The first thing I noticed when we arrived was that the only table left was the one that I had booked – night saved! The second thing was that all the other diners were Korean. I took this as an excellent sign, until the table next to ours just wouldn’t stop eating which diverted the waiter’s attention away from you know, me.

We decided to order a mix of gogigui and other mains and small dishes. For the barbecue which, to the regulator’s delight, was of the less traditional variety – gas vs. charcoal, we chose two beef dishes and one chicken – the kalbi (beef ribs), bulgogi (thinly sliced beef) and dakgui, or “chicken marinated for the BBQ so that the weird girl who doesn’t like beef can eat.” To start, we ordered some fried tofu and kimchi jeon – Jane’s old staple, the Korean pancake, prepared with kimchi – if I said kimchi was a staple of the Korean diet, I’d be vastly underestimating its importance. Did you know that the average Korean eats approximately 40 pounds of kimchi every year? They also say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when taking photographs. It’s very high in fibre, and low in fat.

Just in case this wasn’t enough, we ordered a portion of dak galbi – “chicken specially prepared in a Korean way with spicy sauce” – and bibim naengmyeon, a dish of cold buckwheat noodles in a hot sauce.

The food was delivered in an orderly fashion, beginning with the small dishes and the non-barbecue chicken; based on my limited experience (being Jane and less than six hours in Seoul) Koreans are nothing if not extremely efficient. The jeon, predictably, was delicious, although disappeared mysteriously quickly. The chicken specially prepared in a Korean way with spicy sauce was not in the least bit spicy; coated in a syrupy red sauce, it was undeniably sweet, but ravishingly so. My teeth will forgive me tomorrow, I promised myself.

Once this first stage of our meal was complete, the waiter arrived to turn on our grill. With a flick of a switch, the first small platter of beef was a-sizzling. We were brought a bowl full of lettuce – I wasn’t allowed to put this on the barbecue (but everything goes on the barbecue) but instead was to use it a wrapper for the meat, like so:

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“Like a taco!” I exclaimed with delight. Tacos are my favourite thing ever.

While the plates of meat were somewhat small and once again a little on the sweet side, and the noodles, when they arrived, a bit on the awkward side to slurp, I would consider this a very fun and intimate experience to share with good friends. And, a learning experience : one, I did not know about the technique of cutting meat up with scissors. This is genius. Two – tinder! For a girl who has been in a relationship for more than six years, this was news to me. For a married woman out for dinner with her girlfriends, this dating app turned out to be the equivalent of the iPad game for cats – “all the fun of your cat chasing a laser pointer, without any of the work.”

Massive apologies to Rosie. I hope the guy without teeth doesn’t contact you again.

The verdict: Definitely a successful evening, but maybe more so because of my friend’s willingness to let me accept and reject her potential future soulmates on her mobile. At £16 a head (without alcohol) I thought this was a pretty good value meal; that said, I imagine you can find good value barbecue elsewhere with bigger portions, and less sugar.

If a Korean meal isn’t enough for you, the London Korean Film Festival is on until November 12th. If you happen to be reading this whilst currently IN Korea – Paktor is the South-East Asian version of Tinder. I kid you not – good luck!

Need to know:

Myung Ga Restaurant

1 Kingly Street

020 7734 8220

Nearest tube: Oxford Circus or Picadilly Circus

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-3pm, 5:30pm-11 pm, Sunday 530 pm-1030 pm