East meets west with these delicious bulgogi tacos. It’s a great dish for umami seeking foodies and taco lovers alike!
I cannot tell you how excited I am about this recipe for bulgogi tacos! Asian inspired dinners are very popular around here, with dishes like soy glazed salmon and peanut pork tenderloin topping out list of faves.
But we also have a thing for Mexican food because taco tuesday is life y’all! Like, I could gorge myself to death on a heap of our tequila shrimp tacos. They’re so freaking delicious!
Why not marry our love of Asian cuisine and Mexican food?
Kevin and I started testing this fusion dinner recipe at the end of last summer. We’re both big fans of Korean barbecue and in some strange twist of events, Honey Pig has become our little dystopia utopia.
For those who haven’t been to this small chain, let me explain…. when you walk into the lobby you are greeted with blaring K-pop which reverberates off the corrugated tin walls. The floor is concrete and stainless steel tables each house a propane hubcap grill.
The aforementioned walls are lined with Korean posters and in my mind, the setting resembles any seedy planet I’ve seen on Farscape or Voyager. It’s industrial chic with spotty lighting a lots of steam for effect. But it’s wonderful and delicious and that’s not just the soju talking!
So, Korean barbecue plus a little recipe inspiration in the way of quick picked cabbage sparked the idea for these Asian tacos.
How to make Asian tacos
Of course it all starts with bulgogi, which although it sounds foreign, it’s very approachable. It’s steak marinated in soy sauce with toasted sesame oil and other aromatics like garlic and ginger. Super easy and drenched with flavor!
To the steak, we add freshly sliced cucumbers which add crunch to the tacos. Cucumbers also pair really well with Asian flavors.
Since sour cream or traditional crema seemed incongruous to Asian tacos, we made a fresh cashew crema which is simply cashews, lime juice and water pureed together with a bit of sea salt. The crema adds a sauciness to tacos which mingles well with the beef juices.
We used Lauren’s recipe for pickled cabbage. The acid of the vinegar really breaks up the sweetness of the cukes and bulgogi. Super tasty, and it is indeed quick like the recipe promises. However, if you’re a meal prepper, you can make the pickled cabbage (and the bolgogi marinade) over the weekend for faster weeknight meals.
Finally we top the bulgogi tacos with fresh scallion and cilantro. Really, the recipe is quite simple and fast other than the time it takes to marinate the meat.
The tacos are salty, toasty, acidic, and crunchy with a side of sweet umami. And like most tacos, they are gloriously messy with juices dripping down your chin and hands. SO FREAKING GOOD!
Bulgogi Tacos Recipe
- 1.5 pounds steak (top sirloin, NY strip, ribeye, flank)
- 1 pear grated
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger , finely grated or chopped
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 cup cashews
- 6 tablespoons lime juice
- 3-4 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 12-16 tortillas or lettuce leaves
- quick pickled cabbage or fresh cabbage
- 1 English cucumber or two regular cucumbers, thinly sliced
- Place steak in the freezer until partially frozen, about 30-45 minutes.
- While frozen thinly slice steak with a very sharp knife.
- Place steak in a ziplock bag then add the rest of the marinade ingredients.
- Seal the bag, making sure to press out all the air, then massage the bag to mix the ingredients. Rest overnight or up to 24 hours.
- In a cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan, heat one tablespoon of oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, quickly stirfry half of the steak, stirring as needed, about 4-5 minutes.
- Wipe out pan with a paper towel, add another tablespoon of oil and cook remaining steak.
- Place cashews in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit 15 minutes.
- Drain cashews and place in a blender with lime juice then puree. Add water one tablespoon at a time until you reach a smooth consistency that's spreadable, then season with salt to taste.
- If desired, heat tortillas in a hot frying pan with a little oil (about 30 seconds per side) or cover with a damp towel and place in a warm oven.
- Layer cucumber slices and pickled cabbage on the bottom of a tortilla then add bulgogi. Garnish with cilantro or scallions then add a dollop of crema.
- We tested this recipe using top sirloin steak.
- The bulgogi can be prepped in advance for quicker weeknight meals. Once you seal your bag of marinade and steak, place it in the freezer immediately. The night before or you plan to serve the bulgogi, move it to the refrigerator to thaw.
- The number of tacos this makes depends on the tortilla size. It makes 12 regular tacos or 16 street sized tacos.
- Cutting carbs? This recipe is also great served as lettuce wraps!
- To peel or not to peel a cucumber... if using a sweet, hothouse English cucumber, I usually won't peel. But for regular cukes I say peel to reduce the burp/bitterness factor.
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