Feliz Cinco de Mayo everyone!
I couldn’t let the day go by without throwing a good one at you. Before I get down to it–a little history lesson. Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken to be Mexico’s Independence Day. It is an independence day of sorts. The date actually commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The Mexicans were horribly outnumbered, yet persevered to victory. It’s what we all dream about and root for. The victorious underdog. (Did you all watch The Fight?) Eventually, the French reconquered Mexico. And then the Spaniards came back. The true Mexican Independence day is celebrated in September, commemorating independence from Spain after two disparate and decisive battles.
I think Cinco de Mayo is so popular because it stirs something in us other than spicy margaritas. It represents the fight. For freedom, for time, for whatever is important and precious. To some, these things are a surfeit, but to most these intangibles are the glowing puddle you carry in your hands. Like all good things in life, you should spend all of your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working hard not to spill one single drop. Puebla and its beautiful colonial streets brought this notion to life for me in the lattice of dumbfounding complexity that comprises Mexican history.
I’ve been obsessed with Korean food lately when Mexico lets hold its spell. I recently got Roy Choi’s L.A. Son from the library and have been obsessing about Korean Mexican fusion. They don’t seem like an intuitive pair, but this recipe proves otherwise. These tacos are GOOD! Like a shot to the arm. The marinade and the kimchi-esque slaw add an umami flavor to these tacos. The toppings round out the profile. This will not be my last fusion experiment. I’d even venture to add some jalapenos next time.
Cinco de Mayo is about one country ridding itself of another and yet these tacos are what happened in California when Korean immigrants from the East met Mexican immigrants from the South. Simply perfection.
CINCO DE MAYO BEEF BULGOGI TACOS
For the Bulgogi:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1.5 pounds flank beef or sirloin, sliced thinly across the grain on a diagonal bias
- 1 onion, sliced thinly
- 2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
For the Slaw:
- 1 pound kale, brussels sprout, cabbage salad mix or just napa cabbage sliced thinly
- 1/2 daikon radish, grated
- 1/2 carrot, grated
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Korean chile flakes or hot red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger, crushed
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- flour tortillas
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- sriracha sauce for drizzling (optional)
- mayo or sour cream or greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
For the Slaw:
Sprinkle the salt on the cabbage and toss. Let stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the fish sauce, vinegar, chile flakes, garlic, ginger, sugar, scallions and sesame seeds in a bowl.
After the 20 minutes are up, rinse the cabbage under cold water, then squeeze the excess water out. In a bowl, toss the cabbage with the radish, carrots and fish sauce mixture until well-coated.
For the Bulgogi Beef:
With the back of a knife, lightly pound each slice of beef to tenderize.
In a large mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, brown sugar, mirin and black pepper, gochujang and whisk. Add the beef, onions and scallions then mix gently until the sauce is incorporated into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more if possible. I’ve done it without marinating it for too long and it’s still phenomenal, but if you can let it soak up the juices…just, yum.
Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and get it nice and hot. Add the beef and the marinade and cook approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
Warm the tortillas for 30 seconds in the microwave or using a skillet, heat each tortilla for a few seconds on each side.
On one or two tortillas per taco, add the bulgogi (excess liquid drained), slaw, sour cream/yogurt, Sriracha, toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, and a little lime juice. Serve warm.