I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never tried Korean BBQ. I know, I know. Deplorable. I’ll blame it on the fact that I wanted to do it right and was waiting to go with my friends who lived in Korea. I heard them talking about dduk, compressed rice flour cakes that lovingly soak up the flavor of what they’re cooked in, kimchi for breakfast, and seedy-looking BBQ joints in old warehouses with the best tasting duck (the quacking variety, not the rice cake) they’ve ever had in their lives. They clearly needed to teach me their adopted ways.
So when Dan finally returned state-side and trekked up to San Francisco, you better believe our first stop was Korean BBQ– street food style (what else?). And as an expert on all things Korean, I let him do the picking.
Enter: Seoul On Wheels. Mostly Korean food, but fused with a different ethnicity here and there. Dan came back with three colorful bulgogi tacos- Korean BBQ marinated beef. Mexican flour tortillas (there’s your fusion) are topped with bulgogi, kimchi, gochujang (chili paste), carrot, daikon, and Mexican crema (ok, more fusion).
The first bite was filled with the rich flavor of BBQ beef- sweet with caramelized sugar, soy sauce, and garlic. The acid in the fermented cabbage was bright and piquant and along with the lettuce offered a slight crunch- a welcomed textural difference to the tender beef. The gochujang chili paste was both sweet and spicy and lent heat while Mexican crema cooled the palate.
It really was ridiculously good. Why? Several reasons come to mind. Julia Yoon, the owner, studied with famed Korean Iron Chef competitor Myung Lee in Orange County where Korean food is poppin’ and picked up a thing or two. She also procures her meat from an Oakland butcher who specializes in Korean slicing techniques. She decided the Bay Area didn’t have enough Korean options and needed to share the love via her “roach coach” in 2007.
I must say my first experience with Korean BBQ left me salivating and wanting more (but alas, we had like 7 more food trucks to try). Now I’ve just gotta get my hands on some of that dduk. Where’s the best in San Francisco?