In the arc of every cultural phenomenon there is a catalyzing event, a galvanizing moment. For the food truck movement – an “industry” mired in the albatross image of the “roach coach” – that moment was the advent in Los Angeles of the Kogi food truck and its Korean Fusion Tacos. The Kogi Truck’s application of guerilla marketing principals to social networking technology tools was one part of its early success.
But it was, ultimately, the fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisine that put the Kogi truck on the map and brought it nationwide notoriety. Articles in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Bon Appetit Magazine and Time Magazine helped build a chain of five trucks and now, two permanent spaces (a restaurant and a bar) and crowds at all of them seeking Kogi’s Korean-Mexican fusion tacos and burritos.
And Kogi’s success has led to a nationwide fleet of Korean Fusion Food Trucks. There are Korean Fusion trucks in New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington DC, Houston, Austin, Portland, Chapel Hill, Arlington, VA and more. San Diego, alone, has two such trucks: KalbiQ and Tabe (which itself is considering adding a second truck).
With tamales being a Mexican New Years tradition, I thought that it was about time to remedy that problem. One of our favorite items on a Korean BBQ menu is Daeji Bulgogi, spicy marinated pork grilled at your table either on a gas-fired cast iron grill pan or over charcoal. Since one of the classic New Years tamales in Mexican culture is pork (either roasted or braised), daeji bulgogi seemed a natural. To use up some of the extra Masa dough we also made some Huitlacoche and Cheese Tamales. The sweetness of the Daeji Bulgogi and the richness of the Huitlacoche and Cheese paired well with the smoky bitterness of an Ancho Chipotle Sauce.
But it was the Daeji Bulgogi Tamales that were our New Years Eve star.
Tamales of Daeji Bulgogi with Ancho-Chipotle Sauce
For the Ancho-Chipotle Sauce
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon chopped onion
- 8 ounces dried ancho chile peppers, seeded, toasted and rehydrated
- 2 dried chipotle chile peppers, seeded, toasted and rehydrated
- 2 Roma tomatoes, blackened
- 1 head of garlic, roasted with flesh removed from skins
- 1 ½ cups of chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup tangerine (or orange) juice
- 2 tablespoons of canola (or grapeseed) oil
For the Daeji Bulgogi Filling
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 4 Tbsp red pepper paste (kochujang)
- 5 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp rice wine
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 3 lbs. thinly sliced pork loin
For the Tamale Dough:
- 1 3/4 cups masa harina
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups hot water
- 10 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) stoc
For the Tamales:
- 6 large dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
1. Make the Ancho-Chipotle Sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan and sauté the onions over medium heat for 20 minutes. Transfer the onions to a high speed blender with the chile peppers, tomatoes, garlic, tangerine juice, salt and chicken stock. Process the ingredients to a sauce consistency. Heat the oil in the saucepan, add the sauce and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring persistently.
2. Marinate the Daeji Bulgogi Filling. Mix all the filling ingredients except the pork in a bowl. Add the pork and fully combine so that the marinade penetrates all of the pork.
3. Prepare the Tamale Dough. Place the masa harina, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fixed with a paddle attachment. With the machine running on low speed, add the water in a slow steady stream until the dough forms a ball. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for another 5 minutes. Remove the dough ball from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Finish Making the Tamale Dough. Return the masa to the bowl of the mixer and beat on high speed for 5 minutes. With the machine running slowly add the shortening 2 tablespoons at a time. Continue mixing for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and light. Periodically stop the mixer and scrape the sides as necessary. Reduce the speed to law and continue to mix the dough. While it is mixing, combine the second tranch of salt, baking powder and chicken stock. Slowly add the stock mixture to the masa dough in a steady stream and continue mixing until thoroughly combined. Turn the speed up to high and mix for 5 minutes longer.
4. Cook the Daeji Bulgogi Filling. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Spread the Pork out evenly on one to two hotel sheets. Place the hotel sheets in the oven and cook for ten minutes. If excessive liquid comes off the pork, drain the pan.
5. Assemble the Tamales. Drain the corn husks and shake them dry. Tear 2 of the husks into small strips to use for closing the tamales. Lay out the remaining husks and place a 2 ounce portion of the Masa dough in the center of each. Using the back of a spatula or tablespoon flatten the Masa dough to a thickness of about 1/3 inch. Leave about 1 2 inches of exposed corn husk at each and about half that around the sides. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the filling on top of the Masa dough. Bring the sides of the corn husk together, folding the dough. Tuck one side of the husk under the other and roll the tamale so that the dough is completely enclosed inside the husk. Twist each end of the tamale and tie it off with the small strips of husk torn from the first two corn husks.
6. Cook the Tamales. Fill the bottom of a steamer with 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Place the tamales in the steamer basket. Cover tightly with a lid or with foil and steam the tamales for 40 minutes over lightly boiling water. Be sure to replenish the water as it boils off. The tamales are done when they are firm to the touch, but not hard, and the dough comes easily away from the husk. Let the tamales rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
7. Plate the Dish. Reheat the Ancho Chipotle Sauce. Serve the two tamales per plate with the sauce drizzled over each.