Back in March, I covered the burgeoning food truck scene in Austin, Texas, during the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Now it's time to start highlighting my favorite dishes.
For my first installment, I present the first food truck dish I fell in love with: Chi’Lantro’s Korean-American fusion kimchi fries. It’s simple comfort food with an international twist: tangy Korean barbecue and kimchi piled atop a bed of warm, crispy French fries and topped with cheese, cilantro, “magic sauce," Sriracha and sesame seeds. Not the healthiest pick, but it’s for darn sure one of the best eats in the city.
I had been itching to recreate this recipe at home but couldn’t figure out their exact formula for some of the elements in it. Lucky for me, Chi’Lantro’s chef and owner Jae Kim shared his secret recipe in the May issue of Food & Wine Magazine. While the original formulation is divine, I can never follow a recipe without putting my own spin on it. So here’s my take on this Korean barbecue junk food treat. Try it once and I promise you’ll be hooked.
One quick note on the kimchi: While fermented cabbage may not sound very appetizing, this element is key to the dish. If you’re ambitious and have the necessary ingredients onhand — like Korean chili powder and salted shrimp — and a month to ferment it, make your own at home. Otherwise, you can most likely find it already prepared at at your local Asian market.
Korean Bulgogi and Kimchi Fries
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Makes 4 servings (or 1 if you’re not willing to share)
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 Asian pear
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-inch fresh ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Mirin (rice wine)
1 tablespoon sesame oil (if sauteeing)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound meat, cut into small, thin pieces (beef flank or skirt steak, pork shoulder, or chicken thighs) OR tofu, cut into small cubes, pressed and drained
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Korean chile paste (gochujang)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup prepared kimchi
1/2 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
Ingredients for the rest
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Sriracha, plus more to serve
1 pound hot french fries (or tater tots)
Grated sharp Cheddar, toasted sesame seeds, chopped onion, chopped cilantro (for garnish)
1. In a resealable plastic bag or food safe container, add the onion through your chosen protein and toss to coat. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for 5 hours to overnight.
2. After marinating, remove the protein from the liquid and pat it dry. Grill: High heat for 3-4 minutes. Sauté: Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the protein and cook, turning once on all sides (don’t keep stirring or it will not brown properly), until cooked (about 3-4 minutes).
3. Wipe out the pan and put it over high heat. While it’s heating, whisk the sugar, rice vinegar, chile paste and soy sauce in a small bowl, then toss in the kimchi and onions and coat with the liquid. Add kimchi and onions along with liquid to the hot pan and cook until the liquid thickens and the kimchi and onion have slightly caramelized (browned).
4. Mix the mayo and 3 tablespoons Sriracha together in a small bowl (the “magic sauce”). Place the french fries on a large platter or in 4 separate bowls/plates, top with the bulgogi and kimchi/onion mixture. Drizzle the magic sauce and a little regular Sriracha over the top, then sprinkle the cheese, onion, sesame seeds and cilantro on top.
Follow Katie’s culinary adventures and tasty recipes on her blog, CulinaryPirate.com.