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My Obsession with Roy Choi and Korean Tacos

I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Korean food, Korean tacos, or Roy Choi until I saw his commercial for Google Glass Explorer on YouTube. As soon as a I saw an Asian with some dope sleeves, I knew something was up. Besides personally identifying with Choi’s cultural struggles as a Korean-American growing up in L.A., I just love this idea of pairing unlikely cuisines and the commentary it provides on where our society is heading.

The Post-Immigration Narrative

Let me take a second to clarify that although I’m CLEARLY not Korean or Korean-America, Choi’s struggle with his culture is a narrative many second-generation kids are accustomed to hearing. For the longest time I gave my parents, family, and culture everything I had to be a model Iranian-American if that even exists. I went to school, got good grades, and set my sights on a Master’s in Public Policy. And then everything changed. After the scholarship I had been hoping to get for Georgetown fell through, I spent a couple of years job hopping, trying to figure out what I could possibly do with an English degree. (The answer is nothing that truly pays the bills. Unless your brilliant. Like remarkably brilliant. And even then it’s still hard.)

It was food, nutrition, and health that got me back into a working rhythm again. Choi never really touches on this in his interviews, at least not that I know of, but I think food and cooking can be considered a moving meditation. I know personally that some days I’m super inspired to cook; some days not so much. In other words, I throw whatever I’m feeling that day into the dishes I make. Passionate dishes usually come out great. Dishes I’ve contemplated in my head for days or even weeks can turn out exactly as I have envisioned. And some nights, an awesome dish will happen completely by accident. I’ve noticed the more I cook the less in control I really am. I don’t make the decisions—the food does.

The Cathartics of Food and Its Cultural Implications

Choi also intimates this, but again doesn’t quite address it: in many immigrating cultures, there are specific molds one must assimilate to. Conveniently, the top three molds are doctor, lawyer, and engineer. I wouldn’t say it’s our parents’ fault by any means; they’re simply teaching us what they were taught and what worked for them. But to think every Indian kid or Chinese kid of Lebanese kid is going to become one of these professions is frankly absurd. You might not value that hairdresser or that marketing analyst at first. But when you’re business is going under and you really need a haircut, suddenly hairdressers and analysts are a godsend. That is, there’s a place for everyone in this world, and sometimes your place isn’t in a hospital, a court room, or a tech office.

korean tacos The irony to Choi’s cuisine is it reflects this interpolation between old and new. Korean tacos and other fusion foods that Choi has developed aren’t exactly a slap to the face to traditional Korean food and culture. Rather, because they deviate so much from the norm, we don’t always know what to make of the cuisine. Because it’s so delicious, we have no choice but to accept it regardless of whether or not it’s ‘authentic’ Korean food. Choi’s food takes all the comfort of the Old World and warps it in a portable tortilla so that the new generation can carry this food and culture wherever they go physically and metaphorically.

I was really inspired by the Kogi story to take a stab at Korean tacos. But the thing is, I don’t eat tacos. I don’t eat bread. And gluten-free bread, well sometimes that feels like an oxymoron. So I settled on making Korean burrito bowls because it’s simply what I like.

I couldn’t find kimchi at the grocery store (go figure). I would have made some myself, but I wanted today’s recipe to focus on the incredible braised beef I made. I settled for some pickled ginger (yes, I know this is technically Japanese) and also made an Asian slaw salad to get that cabbage component in the dish. Instead of that disgusting rice you find at most Mexican restaurants, I opted for steamed brown rice. Sure, it’s on the boring side. But it’s healthy, fiber-rich and will keep you full for hours. This healthier version of Korean burrito bowls packs all the punch with way fewer calories.

A couple last note of advice: it looks like this dish will take a ton of time. But actually it’s pretty simple. You’re really just letting the slow cooker do most of the work. Any work done for this dish is entirely worth it, so please read, eat, and enjoy!

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Korean Burrito Bowls With Asian Red Cabbage Slaw
The ingredient list for the meat might seem kind of long, but it's totally worth it!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 360 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the meat
For the cabbage slaw
For the cabbage slaw dressing
For serving
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 360 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the meat
For the cabbage slaw
For the cabbage slaw dressing
For serving
Instructions
For the meat
  1. Mix all of the ingredients except for the beef in a large bowl and set aside. Sear the beef lightly in a pan for 5-10 minutes to develop some color.
  2. Remove the beef from the pan and arrange it in your slow cooker. Pour the mixture evenly over the beef. Cook on high for four hours or low for seven, stirring occasionally.
  3. When the meat is cooked and tender, drain it and reserve the liquid in a separate container. Shred the beef with two forks, adding liquid as needed. You want the meat to be moist, but not soupy. Reserve the rest of the liquid to use as a sort of 'gravy' for your burrito bowl.
For the cabbage slaw
  1. Blend all of the ingredients for the dressing in a high speed blender. Toss this dressing with the vegetables. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the vegetables absorb the dressing.
For serving
  1. Top a bed of brown rice with the beef, then the cabbage. Add fresh cilantro and pickled ginger as a garnish. You can also wrap this in a tortilla or eat it rice free!
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