Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

This recipe for beef tacos with a Korean flavor uses cabbage in three different ways: a crisped cabbage leaf serves as the shell, sautéed cabbage is a component of the filling, and pickled cabbage tops the tacos. Since you can prepare most of the components ahead of time, all you need to do when serving the steak tacos is to assemble them.

Exploring the Fusion: Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

Introduction With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, culinary fusion has become a delightful norm. The melding of flavors from different cuisines often leads to surprising, mouthwatering creations that captivate food enthusiasts worldwide.

Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos
Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

One such delightful fusion is the Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos—a harmonious marriage of Korean and Mexican cuisines. In this article, we delve into the origins of these tantalizing tacos, explore the key ingredients and cooking techniques involved, and provide a step-by-step recipe to recreate this culinary delight at home.

Origins of Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos

Globalization and cultural exchange have shaped a diverse culinary landscape, as evidenced by the fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisine. While the exact origins of Korean beef and cabbage tacos remain elusive, they are believed to have emerged from the burgeoning food truck scene in the United States, particularly in cities like Los Angeles and New York, where multicultural influences abound.

Food entrepreneurs and chefs, seeking to offer unique and innovative dishes, began experimenting with the bold flavors of Korean cuisine and the beloved Mexican staple, the taco. The result was a culinary revelation—a tantalizing blend of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors that took the food world by storm.

Key Ingredients

Beef: Central to Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos is the succulent, flavorful beef filling. Traditionally, we marinate thinly sliced beef, like ribeye or flank steak, to perfection. The marinade typically includes ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and brown sugar, infusing the meat with rich umami notes and a hint of sweetness.

Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

Cabbage: Cabbage serves as the crisp, refreshing base for these tacos. Thinly shredded cabbage adds a delightful crunch and a touch of freshness to each bite, balancing the richness of the beef and complementing the other flavors in the taco.

Gochujang: Gochujang, a staple in Korean cuisine, is a fermented chili paste that brings depth and heat to the dish. Its complex flavor profile—sweet, spicy, and savory—elevates the marinade and adds a distinctive Korean flair to the tacos.

Tortillas: Authentic corn tortillas or flour tortillas provide the vessel for assembling the Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos. The choice of tortilla can influence the overall texture and flavor profile of the dish, with corn tortillas offering a nuttier taste and a firmer texture, while flour tortillas impart a softer, milder flavor.

Garnishes: Tacos are incomplete without a medley of vibrant garnishes. Common toppings for Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos include thinly sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice, which add brightness and complexity to the dish.

Cooking Techniques

Marinating the Beef: The key to tender, flavorful beef lies in the marinade. To prepare the marinade, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, brown sugar, and gochujang in a bowl. Coat each thinly sliced beef evenly with the marinade. Allow the beef to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or ideally, refrigerate it overnight to intensify the flavors.

Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

Searing the Beef: Once the beef has marinated, heat a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove the beef from the marinade, allowing any excess marinade to drip off, and sear the slices for 2–3 minutes on each side until caramelized and cooked to your desired doneness. Transfer the cooked beef to a plate and tent it with foil to keep it warm.

Preparing the Cabbage: While the beef is cooking, thinly shred the cabbage using a sharp knife or a mandoline slicer. Toss the shredded cabbage with a pinch of salt and a splash of rice vinegar to enhance its flavor and texture.

Assembling the Tacos: To assemble the Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos, warm the tortillas in a dry skillet or microwave until soft and pliable. Place a generous portion of the marinated beef onto each tortilla, followed by a mound of shredded cabbage. Garnish the tacos with sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Serving and Enjoying: Serve the tacos immediately, allowing your guests to customize their tacos with their favorite toppings and condiments, such as kimchi, sriracha, or pickled radishes. Pair the tacos with a refreshing side dish, such as cucumber salad or kimchi slaw, and enjoy the delightful fusion of Korean and Mexican flavors.

Recipe: Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos Now, let’s put the cooking techniques into practice with a step-by-step recipe for Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. thinly sliced beef (ribeye or flank steak)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • Salt, to taste
  • Rice vinegar, for dressing
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas
  • Garnishes: sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, lime wedges

Instructions:

Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

  1. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, brown sugar, and gochujang to make the marinade.
  2. Incorporate the thinly sliced beef into the marinade, making sure to coat each slice evenly. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight for best results.
  3. Heat a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove the beef from the marinade, allowing excess marinade to drip off.
  4. Sear the beef slices for 2-3 minutes on each side until caramelized and cooked to your desired doneness. Transfer the cooked beef to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
  5. While the beef is cooking, thinly shred the cabbage and toss it with a pinch of salt and a splash of rice vinegar.
  6. Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet or microwave until soft and pliable.
  7. To assemble the tacos, place a generous portion of the marinated beef onto each tortilla, followed by a mound of shredded cabbage.
  8. Garnish the tacos with sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
  9. Serve the Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos immediately, allowing guests to customize their tacos with additional toppings and condiments as desired.

Directions

step 1:

It is necessary to place napa cabbage in a large bowl in order to produce pickled cabbage. In a medium saucepan, combine three-quarters of a cup of rice vinegar, half a cup of water, one tablespoon of ginger, half a teaspoon of pepper, crushed red pepper, and salt. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and continue cooking until the salt dissolves, which should take approximately thirty seconds to one minute. Give it two minutes to cool off. After pouring over the cabbage, give it a good swirl. Place the mixture in the refrigerator, covered, and stir it occasionally for at least two hours and up to one day.

step 2:

Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos

To prepare a marinade for steak, take a shallow glass dish and mix together the following ingredients: soy sauce, a quarter cup of vinegar, sesame oil, scallions, one and a half tablespoons of ginger, sugar, garlic, and chile paste to taste. Add the steak, cover it, and marinate it in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to a day, turning it once or twice during the marinating process.

step 3:

In a medium saucepan, combine one cup of water, one quarter of a teaspoon of canola oil, and one cup of rice to prepare the filling and cabbage shells. Stir over high heat until it reaches a boil. Once you give it a thorough stir, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover it, and continue cooking for forty to fifty minutes, the rice should become soft and absorb the water. Put aside, with the lid on.

step 4:

Remove the outermost leaves from the red cabbage, slice the head in half through the center, and remove the core from each half separately. Prepare the taco shells by peeling the leaves from each half and selecting eight leaves that are visually appealing. Slice the remaining cabbage very thinly to yield four cups.

step 5:

Korean Beef & Cabbage Tacos
Heat the remaining one and a half tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, two cloves of minced garlic, a quarter teaspoon of pepper, and a pinch of salt; simmer for approximately five minutes, stirring often, until the onion has become more tender and is beginning to brown. For approximately five more minutes, add the sliced red cabbage and one tablespoon of ginger, and continue to simmer while tossing the mixture occasionally until the cabbage begins to wilt. Set aside for later.

step 6:

Once you are ready to cook the steak, heat the grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, place an oven rack around three to four inches away from the source of heat and preheat the broiler to high.)

step 7:

The steak should be removed from the marinade, and the marinade should be set aside. Cook the skirt steak on the grill (or under the broiler) for six to seven minutes, turning it once, and cook the flank steak for nine to twelve minutes. Proceed to a clean cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for a period of five minutes.

step 8:

Add the marinade to the red cabbage mixture already in the skillet and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, for approximately four minutes, or until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.

step 9:

Before serving, evenly distribute the rice and the red cabbage mixture among the cabbage shells. First, cut the steak against the grain into very thin slices, and then divide it among the tacos. Place approximately two tablespoons of drained pickled cabbage on top of each taco.

Tips

Tip for Making Ahead: You can marinate the steak and pickle the cabbage (Steps 1 and 2) up to one day in advance. Prepare the rice (Step 3) and the cabbage filling (Step 5) up to two hours in advance.

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use “gluten-free” soy sauces because they may contain wheat or other gluten-containing sweeteners and flavors.

This article was first published in EatingWell Magazine in March or April of 2014.

Conclusion

Korean Beef and Cabbage Tacos exemplify the magic of culinary fusion—bringing together diverse flavors and ingredients to create a harmonious and utterly delicious dish. Whether enjoyed as a casual weeknight meal or as the star attraction at your next gathering, these tacos are sure to delight your taste buds and leave you craving more. So, gather your ingredients, fire up the grill, and embark on a culinary adventure that celebrates the best of Korean and Mexican cuisine.

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