Korean Taco Craze?

The "Korean Taco"

Special thanks to the Ask a Korean blog and its author, without which I wouldn’t have written this article. He’s also contributed to changing my idea of what “authentic” food is.

After reading this article in the New York Times, I don’t know how to react.  The article is about how the “Korean Taco” is becoming popular in the United States.  The trouble is, that in my opinion, the Korean Taco isn’t Korean.  It’s American to the core.  The title of the article is even “The Tortilla Takes a road Trip to Korea.”  Clever, to say the least, but the tortilla isn’t coming anywhere near Korea (at least not because of the Korean Taco.)  Korean-American restauranteurs are instead using Korean inspired marination techniques for their taco meat.  Korea itself has nothing to do with this story.

The American press has been buzzing about this kind of stuff lately, and I’ve even seen a few cases where the taco truck that they talk about in this article was featured on Korean TV.  But, this isn’t Korean food!  It’s American food inspired by the Korean-American idea of what Tex-Mex is (Tex-Mex itself often mistaken as Mexican food, when it really isn’t) and the Korean-American idea of what Korean food is.

You can search Google for “kogi truck” if you want more information about the origins of the “Korean Taco”.  I haven’t tried, it, and I’m in no way saying that it’s bad, but suggesting that it is Korean food in any way is just silly.  It’s 100% an American creation.  It also appears that it’s becoming really popular and it has inspired copycats.  Some have even attempted creating the “Chinese Taco” or the “Japanese Taco”.  And, if they make a delicious creation that people are willing to spend money on, more power to them.


38 Responses to “Korean Taco Craze?”

  1. LOL Yeah Korea doesn’t have taco! And a lot of Asian food in the US taste really different… I had Thai, Chinese, Indian and Korean food in the states but, they tasted really different lol

    • Well I thought about it again and I guess Koreans also make Thai, Chinese, and Indian food taste different XD

    • I actually think it’s like that for every national food.
      I have been in France for 3 months and I had to cook. Everything tasted so different! Even noodles! The problem is that ingredients were quite different from what I was supposed to use but I couldn’t find the right ones or they were too expensive. Anyway, everything was edible! 😀 haha

      • Yeah I totally agree! Everything does taste different in each country :S The same concept applies to my mom’s cooking haha When we move around :S her cooking style changes as well =)

        Yes… food that taste like the original is really expensive =(
        Except for KFC, McD, and BK hahaha they usually taste the same 😀

  2. O_o
    That always happens with food, just like with Chilli, most people think it’s a Mexican Dish and that we eat it all the time but we don’t eat chilli… :/
    And I was told that the Korean food sold in Mexico is not at all like the REAL Korean food 😦
    I guess with Food is always tricky because the right ingredients can not always be found….

  3. It’s quite funny to see how people try to invent new things mixing tastes, cultures and styles! I actually admit that I also do it sometimes. Anyway, the fact of calling this dish “the Korean taco” is dangerous somehow. The perception of Korea from a foreigner point of view can change and people could wrongly think about this country. Well, the thing I mostly worry about is that the article has been published on the NY Times!!! 😦 Why they didn’t present it just like a new fusion dish?!

    • exactly!!

      I checked the article and they didn’t seem to ask Korean People about this only Korean-Americans
      With small things like this is that people start having the wrong impression about other Countries/Cultures/Traditions…. :S

  4. Leo el mexicano Says:

    Taco is not “Tex-Mex”, it is indeed Mexican food (as mexican as I am). Nachos and Burritos are Tex-Mex, Tacos and Guacamole are Mexican. We have white and yellow tortillas (flour and corn), and Tacos are our national dish (among many other dishes unknown to the outside world).

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      Leo the Mexican, I know that tacos are actually Mexican. HOWEVER, in the U.S., the American Taco (such as the kind you can get in Taco Bell, Chichis, El Tio Grande, and other popular “Mexican” restaurants isn’t mexican. Also with the Korean Taco, I highly doubt they did any research by actually going to Mexico to look at authenticity. They just worked with what they knew. I don’t mean to be insulting to Mexico at all, but I think you would agree that what passes for a taco in the U.S. is in fact not very much like a taco in Mexico.

  5. Hm.. I don’t think ‘Korean Taco’ is wrong expression.
    There should be an omitted word, ‘STYLE’. That’s just ‘Korean STYLE Taco’! (It’s not my guess! I saw it in the original article.)
    Taco is usually cooked in Mexican style, because it’s from Mexico! However, the chief in the article wanted to cook Korean food in a new way. What he thought was to make tacos in Korean style by adding Korean food such as Kimchi or Kalbi. (I visited their site and I found that they add Kimchi, Kalbi or other Korean food on taco.) That’s why he called ‘Korean Taco’. It’s one of fusion cuisine 😀
    I totally agree that this is not Korean food, but I think this term is used to express that ‘This taco is not Mexican style as you usually eat. It’s Korean style, because we add Korean food on this taco!’

    Oh, by the way.. I have a question about this post, The Seoul Searcher 🙂 Why do you think this style taco is American? I couldn’t find the reason..T_T Hm.. because it’s made in US?

    • Oh, I want to add some more 🙂

      I think the term ‘Korean Taco’ itself presents fusion cuisine.

      We don’t call sushi ‘JAPANESE sushi’, because sushi itself represents Japan.
      Taco is just taco. We don’t need to call it ‘MEXICAN taco’, because taco itself represents Mexico!

      That’s why I think ‘Korean Taco’ itself show that it’s fusion cuisine 🙂

      If there’s a better word to express that it’s just fusine cuisine that is added Korean food on Mexican taco, it would be the best.
      But I think this term expresses it’s fusion cuisine in normal way.

      • The Seoul Searcher Says:

        Yes, I have to agree that it’s a kind of fusion cuisine. However, I can’t say that the taco is representative of Mexico, because the world’s idea of what a taco is comes from the U.S.

        Real Mexican Tacos don’t have hard shells, don’t use so much cheese, don’t use sour cream, etc..

        Mexicans who have been to the U.S. want to chime in on this one? I could be totally wrong, but don’t you think that American idea of Mexican food is different from actual Mexican food?

        • Wow, really?

          I didn’t know that!!!
          A lot of tacos I ate were not all Mexican’s?
          I thought tacos were totally Mexican dish!

          Now, I understand why you said it’s American 🙂 Thanks!

      • I don’t think a TACO is what represents Mexico (or at least I HOPE SO) specially because most people think a Taco is a shell with meat, lettuce, cheese ans “salsa” and those are something like this http://www.vegsoc.org/nvw/2005/presspics/quornpics/images/Smoked%20Tacos%202_jpg.jpg and OUR tacos are more like this http://www.psp.gatech.edu/fleet/sites/LBAT_09/Wharton,%20Kate/LBAT%20PICS/1253157942_3e17532281.jpg.
        Anyway I would say a Taco is a Mexican representative DISH (not the country itself) is not like we think KOREA = Kimchi, right? …It’s just my opinion ad Mexican I dislike when people thinks BIG Hat + Taco = Mexico o_O

        • The Seoul Searcher Says:

          Gisela, do you know about Speedy Gonzales, the cartoon character? I always wondered if Mexicans disliked that or if they also thought he was funny. I loved him when I was a kid, but when I grew up I started thinking that maybe it’s not nice to portray mexicans in that way.

          • Yup I do know him and I find it funny
            When I was a child only saw him as a cartoon and I thought it was a Mexican cartoon (lol Wrooong!) but now I have the feeling that’s how many people think we are. I’ve spoken with lots of people that think we run around the city with our hats and that we eat tacos everyday (I love tacos, but every day? hehe) and If I that am Mexican thought it was a mexican cartoon when I was a child I can only imagine what the rest of the world will think of Speedy Gonzalez (yeppa yeppa yeppa!!! lol)

        • Oh, you’re right.

          Korea is not Kimchi and Kimchi is not Korea.
          Also, Kimchi is a Korean representative DISH.

          But when people hear about ‘Kimchi’, they remember not only Korea dish, but also Korea itself 🙂 I mean just Korea, not Korean cultrue, technology, or something else. Just ‘Korea’. Because Kimchi is so popular as a Korean dish, so it became one of symbols of Korea 🙂

          That’s why I thought I can say Kimchi represents Korea itself, Sushi represents Japan itself and Tacos represent Mexico itself!

          Why not? 🙂 haha

        • I used the pictures in my blog. Is it fine for you? If not, just let me know 🙂 I’ll remove them. Of course, I wrote down you found the picrues and linked your blog address!


    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      It’s American because it’s made by Korean-Americans, mixing a food of their heritage (Korea) with a food of their location (USA). I’d be more inclined to call it Mexican food if it was made in Mexico by a Korean-Mexican hoping to sell it to fellow Mexicans.

      • Yes, it’s American, but it’s Korean STYLE American food. It means fusion cuisine as you agree.

        Can I ask one more thing? 🙂

        But how come is it American “to the core”?

        • The Seoul Searcher Says:

          It’s American to the core because it is made in America by Americans, and for Americans and it has no precedent in Korea or Mexico…

          • Oh, I see ^^ Tacos are American, so ‘Korean Tacos’ are just one of new tacos as a “fusion” American dish.
            I was just wondering if fusion cuisine can really be the country’s dish “to the core”. I think fusion cuisine is the dish of the countries which the mixed food is from, not only one country’s 🙂 If one’s food doesn’t exist, the fusion cuisine cannot be made. If there’s no Kimchi or Kalbi, “Kimchi” tacos or “Kalbi” tacos cannot be made! There’s definitely no precedent of Kimchi “tacos” and Kalbi “tacos” in Korea, is there any precedent of “Kimchi” tacos or “Kalbi” tacos in the U.S? Of course, I agree the idea of tacos is from the U.S and it’s made in the U.S, but I don’t think we can ignore the influence of Kimchi or Kalbi, which is the representative Korean food, to the tacos. That’s so-called FUSION! That’s why I couldn’t say it’s American “to the core” even though I think it’s American.

            Anyway, people eat Kimchi, Kalbi or some other Korean food on tacos whatever the reason! ^^ I like the chief’s idea! It’s a good way to introduce Korean food to American easily.

            Thank you for answering my questions all the time, The Seoul Searcher 🙂

          • The Seoul Searcher Says:

            Hey, no problem, and also we don’t have to always agree, it’s just my own opinion, and the world isn’t going to end if we disagree on food origins, and what is American and what is Korean.. etc..

            That said.. fusion cuisine is usually taking one’s idea of one cuisine and mixing it with one’s idea of another cuisine. It’s quite possible that the person’s idea of both cuisines could be warped.

            Very simply, what do you think about jajjang myun? Is it Korean or is it Chinese? Do you think Chinese people from China eating the jajjang myun in Korea will agree that it is Chinese?

            So is it Chinese then?

          • LOL at “the world isn’t going to end if we disagree on food origins” hahahaha

          • Oh, I went to a Korean-Chinese restaurant with one of my Chinese friends few months ago in Canada. I just wondered how Chinese people thought about the food.

            We ordered Jajang myun.
            She said there’s no that kind of Jajjang myun in China. Of course, the black sauce(I don’t know how I can call it in English.) is from China, but they don’t cook it like that.

            I don’t need to say that’s Chinese or Korean. How can it be just one country’s dish?

            The main sause is from China, but it cooks as a totally Korean style by Korean. It’s Korean-Chinese food, called fusion cuisine 🙂

          • So what I want to say is it’s American, but not only American. It’s FUSION as I emphasized many times! So it’s exactly Korean-American food or American-Korean food.

  6. lim.hyung.sun Says:

    well at least it’s not as bad as Japanese shops selling Kimchi labelled as ‘Japanese Kimuchi’… I think what the article wanted to show is the way food can be changed by innovations of 2nd/3rd generations of Korean people… at least it’s inspired by korean ways of cooking

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      Tell me more about Kimuchi. I don’t really see what the problem is with Japanese making and exporting Kimchi, it’s not like Korea is the only one who’s allowed to make it.

  7. I’m from mexico and I can say that this article caused me much laughter, that somehow the cue itself is of Mexican origin and to know that a bitstream has an influence on Korean food is … as it were admirable

  8. i love taco but the tacos in Korea sucks. it tastes not a merely near the taste in U.S.

  9. It doesn’t matter if it’s made by Americans. It’s a Korean taco, fusion Mexican-Korean cuisine. If an American made spaghetti, would that make it American?

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      Actually, that depends on whether effort is put forth to emulate its precedent in Italy. If the objective is to make spaghetti just like in Italy then yes, it’s Italian (inspired at least). The Korean taco has no precedent in either Korea or Mexico, and is made by Americans for Americans. You can’t get more American than that.

      You’re welcome to your opinion of course.

      • It’s a fusion cuisine. Lord, you are really hopeless. So I guess if an American mixed kimchi with spaghetti, that would make kimchi spaghetti American?

        • The Seoul Searcher Says:

          Well that all depends. I assume you’d be talking about the American version of spaghetti, in which case I’d say yes.

          And I don’t think I’ve denied the “Korean taco” was a fusion cuisine.

  10. lol, it’s funny and it’s just like how the Burrito isn’t really Mexican. The burrito wasn’t even invented and hard to fine in any south american/latin american countries but it’s probably the best known mexican dish out in california.

    • It’s weird I just saw an episode of Man Vs Food and there was this señor “an old guy” (don’t remember the name) who said HE invented the burritos of course he was a Mexican inmigrant in California , maybe that’s why people think it’s a Mexican dish,,,, I don’t understand how Mexican people go to California (or anywhere else) and creates “food” and they call it Mexican Food O_o they are just helping everyone to confuse the REAL Mexican food with the Food made by Mexicans.. :S

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