While recently researching the history and current trajectory of Mexican food, I was reminded of the Korean taco craze that is by now well-known across the great States as a delicious trend in fusion cuisine. It had been a while since I had a Korean taco myself, so I took the opportunity to visit the Chi’Lantro truck, an Austin favorite.
Chi’Lantro first gained fame by capitalizing on the Korean taco wave, and their tacos are legit although relatively pricey compared to what you pay at the taquería. Korean tacos remind me of tacos al pastor with their double-layer of warm, corn tortillas and chopped onion and cilantro until you get to the filling—spicy Korean barbecued meat, or bulgogi, instead of spit-grilled pork. Chi’Lantro, like many Korean taco trucks, also offers chicken, pork, and even tofu, which is great news for the veg heads.
On this occasion, I was more interested in trying their signature offering, Kimchi Fries. This dish departs a bit from the Korean-Mexican fusion theme—there’s really nothing Mexican about it. Nonetheless, the description alone is drool-inducing. It is as follows: “Caramelized Kimchi, a mound of sizzling Korean BBQ, chopped grilled onions, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, magic sauce, sriracha, and sesame seeds. All set on top of a pile of crispy French fries.”
It’s a foam boat full of colorful, messy layers of flavor, kind of like nachos, only with fries rather than chips—almost like the Korean version of chili cheese fries. Every bite is a little bit different and best appreciated with a fork—using your fingers just doesn’t allow you to scoop up enough of the melty cheese and spicy magic sauce.
At $6, it’s frankly overpriced, but they do give you a very generous helping of protein. It’s one of their best-sellers, and it’s not hard to see why. I thought I’d need to enlist some help to finish off my order, but I ended up happily cleaning it up all on my own. The best part is by far the caramelized kimchi, which in and of itself seems like an oxymoron. Kimchi, spicy Korean fermented cabbage, is typically pungent and sour, but in this dish, it’s made sweet and soft like caramelized onions. I’ll definitely be trying that one at home.
If you haven’t tried a Korean taco or any of the other innovative snacks that these popular fusion food trucks offer, look one up, and give it a try. The Kogi truck in Cali is the originator. New York recently joined the party with their own trucks, like Kimchi Taco. My good friend Eric has a great truck called Oh My Gogi! in Houston.
And the moral of this story is, multiculturalism is tasty, kids.