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What Is a Korean Taco?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
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Korean tacos combine two distinct cuisines: Asian and Mexican. They are small foods consisting of hard or soft corn tortillas stuffed with popular Korean foods like bulgogi. The dish is particularly prominent in the western United States, where street vendors often serve it.

Traditionally a Mexican fixture, the taco is a popular dish with many variations, including the Korean taco. The basic dish has a tortilla base. Tortillas are generally flat, round, and made of baked flour or corn, and are folded into hard or soft form. Some form of meat, such as beef, is then placed into the folded tortilla. Extra toppings such as sour cream and lettuce may also be added.

Korean cuisine serves as the inspiration for Korean tacos. Food that originates from the country of Korea often has a base mix of rice, meat, and vegetables. Oils, sauces, and spices are also popular in Korean cuisine. Beef is perhaps the most popular meat in Korea, followed by chicken and pork. Seafood and dog meat are also consumed.

Differences in the meat taste and preparation generally differentiate Korean tacos from other varieties. Any of the above meats combined with common Korean condiment additives, along with rice or vegetable combinations, may be part of a Korean taco. Some frequent Korean vegetable mixtures include fermented radish and cabbage. If the taco meat is placed on a soft tortilla, the dish may be called a Korean burrito, and some Korean taco versions — ssam versions — forgo the tortilla entirely and wrap the meat in leafy vegetables. For the full Korean cuisine experience, a Korean taco may be served with noodles or a popular Korean soup like malgeunguk or gomguk.

A Korean creation known as bulgogi serves as the main meat component for many Korean tacos. This substance mixes thin-sliced pork or beef with a host of Asian spices like soy sauce, mirin, minced garlic, and Asian sesame oil. The meat is typically marinated in this mixture. Then, it is barbecued over a fire. Slices of this meat can be placed on a tortilla to create a Korean taco.

Restaurants and street vendors may be credited with the success of Korean tacos as a dish, though several restaurants in many regions have also developed versions. California street vendors arguably created the most successful iterations of the dish. These individuals typically serve the edibles in movable vehicles along sidewalks and street sides, where customers can purchase the meal and consume it as they are walking or sitting on a bench. Interestingly, Korean tacos are not a culinary fixture in Korea itself, however.

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Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Dec 25, 2014

I really want to have this street food but I live on the East coast and I've never seen it here. I guess it's still only popular on the West coast. I sure hope vendors in our area pick up on this idea soon. There are a ton of vendors selling Middle Eastern, American and Chinese foods. But nothing Korean, not yet. I think Korean tacos would be a super-hit in the DC area.

Since it might take a few years to get Korean tacos here, I think I might just go ahead and make it at home sometime. I already cook Korean from time to time, so I'm sure that I have most of the ingredients I need to make tacos.

By fify — On Dec 25, 2014

@bear78-- Korean tacos are delicious. It might sound strange but wait till you try one. You will be hooked and will think differently about fusion food. I do think actually that Korean tacos are more Korean than they are Mexican. Aside from the tortilla, most of the other ingredients are Korean ingredients, like Korean grilled meat, kimchi, bean paste, etc. So if you like Korean food, you will definitely like Korean tacos.

My favorite is a kimchi burrito, which I actually call a "kurrito." The kimchi really adds that spicy touch to the savory meat filling.

By bear78 — On Dec 24, 2014

I've never had a Korean taco and honestly, it sounds a little strange. I have heard of fusion dishes before but Mexican and Korean cuisine are so incredibly different that I can't really imagine a good fusion. I think it's best to stick to the basics and eat Mexican tacos separately and Korean food separately.

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