Korean Beef TacosSteven Raichlen
Korean beef tacos start with one of the world’s most flavorful marinades and boast one of the most stimulating arrays of condiments. The resulting bundle is hot and cold and chewy-crisp and lights up your moth like a Roman candle. It also has the virtue of being completely customizable. Just you and a friend on a weeknight? Serve the steaks with lettuce leaves and hot sauce. Party time? Set out a full Monty spread of grilled vegetables, kimchis, salads, and dipping sauces. You can make these as simple or elaborate as the occasion calls for.
Korean Beef Tacos
- Advance Prep: 1 to 2 hours for marinating the meat
- Yield: Serves 4 to 6
- Method: Direct grilling; broiler; or skillet
For the steaks, marinade, and dipping sauce
- 2 pounds skirt steak (trim off any silverskin)
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine), sake, or dry sherry
- 1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (a little more if you use sake or sherry)
- 1/4 cup Asian (dark) sesame oil, plus 1 tablespoon for the skillet
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 4 scallions, trimmed, both white and green parts minced
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- 1 kiwi fruit or small Asian pear (optional), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 head romaine lettuce, separate into leaves, rinsed, and dried
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup kochujang (Korean chili paste), doenjang (Korean bean paste), Chinese or Vietnamese chili paste, Sriracha, or another Asian hot sauce
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed, patted dry, and stemmed
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and skewered on toothpicks
- 4 scallions, trimmed
- 4 jalapeno peppers, or 2 Anaheim peppers
Step 1: Using a chef’s knife, lightly score the steaks in a crosshatch pattern on both sides by making a series of shallow 1/8-inch deep) cuts 1/4 inch apart, first in one direction on the diagonal, then at a 90-degree angle to the first set of cuts. Place the steaks in a glass or nonreactive baking dish or in a resealable bag just large enough to hold them.
Step 2: Place the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the 1/4 cup sesame oil, lime juice, minced scallions, ginger, black pepper, and sesame seeds, and kiwi (if using). Pour half of the mixture into a serving bowl, or 4 small bowls, for the dipping sauce. If making the sauce more than 3 hours in advance of serving, cover and refrigerate it in the mixing bowl. Remove it 1/2 hour before serving, and whisk again.
Step 3: Add the minced garlic to the remaining mixture. Pour it over the steaks, turning them a couple of times to coat both sides. Cover the steaks with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
Step 4: When ready to serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter. Place the cucumber, kimchi, chili or bean paste (or hot sauce), cilantro, and rice in small bowls for serving.
Step 5: Broiler method: Just before serving, preheat the broiler as hot as it will go. Place a broiler pan or cast-iron skillet under the broiler and preheat it as well (about 3 minutes). Drain the steaks well, discarding the marinade. Carefully remove the hot pan from the broiler and arrange the steaks on it. Broil the steaks until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium (Koreans like their meat cooked medium to medium-well), turning with tongs. If you are using the skewered garlic, scallions, and/or peppers, arrange them on the broiler pan and broil until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Skillet method: Just before serving, drain the steaks well, discarding the marinade. Heat the 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the steaks to the pan in a single layer without crowding, working in batches as needed, and cook until done to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium (Koreans like their meat cooked medium to medium-well), turning with tongs. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. If you are using the skewered garlic, scallions, and/or peppers, add them to the hot pan and brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, again, working in batches as needed so as not to crowd the pan.
Grill method: Set up your grill for direct grilling and brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the steaks well, discarding the marinade. Arrange the steaks on the hot grill and grill until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes for medium. If you are using the skewered garlic, scallions, and/or peppers, arrange them on the grill and grill until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Step 6: Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let them rest for about 30 seconds. Slice the vegetables, if using. Stir the bowl(s) of dipping sauce again. Slice the steaks very thinly on the diagonal across the grain.
Step 7: To eat, pile slices of steak on lettuce leaves. Top with your choice of cucumber slices, kimchi, chili paste (kochujang), bean past (doenjang) or hot sauce, cilantro, rice, and grilled vegetables, adn roll or fold up. Dip the taco in the dipping sauce and dig in.