Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vietnamese Style Tacos

So when we were going back and forth to Union Market during Christmas tree season, I had to watch in envious pain as everyone, including my own husband, devoured these incredible looking "takos" from TaKorean.  They have found a way to marry traditional Korean flavors and ingredients with one of our favorite Latin comfort and convenience foods...the taco.  But alas, just like most Korean BBQ, none of the offerings at TaKorean are gluten-free thanks to gluten's ability to hide itself in just about every blessed brown marinade.  Curse you gluten!!!  I love tacos and I worship Korean, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, even if most of I can no longer have.  So after a few odd days of binge watching Korean TV (it should be noted, I don't speak a lick of Korean), I vowed to stop drooling and pouting, because I was going to do some research, follow my culinary gut, and head to the store to procure what I would need for some back to back weeknight delights.  I'm gearing up to make homemade Korean bulgogi with kimchi tonight, but last night, oh last night, I grabbed the cabbage and some of the leftover carrots from the share two weeks ago and set out to create a fusion style taco with all the bright Vietnamese flavors I've been craving (come back to me bahn mi!).  I'd made arepas for the first time earlier in the week, so the Mister begged to have those as the base rather than just a corn tortilla, so these are more open face tacos, or something.  I'm not quite sure what to truly call them other than utterly delicious!  Let's just say I had some again for breakfast this morning!

Vietnamese Style Tacos

For the pickled slaw:

1 cup water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ cabbage, cored & thin sliced
½ cup cilantro, minced
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
Kosher salt

For the spicy chili beef: 

½ cup sweet chili sauce (I use a brand called Mae Ploy, and can find it at the Giant in Kingstowne)
¼ cup wheat free soy sauce
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1 tsp garlic, minced
1.5 lbs thin sliced ribeye (if you really want the perfect cut for this or for making bulgogi hit up a local H Mart, it's worth the extra trip -- alas, I did not have the time to make the extra trip)
2 Tbsp sesame oil

For the arepas (or if you prefer, just use corn tortillas):

2 cups white corn masa (can be found in the Hispanic food section of most grocery stores)
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups warm water
Butter for frying (I use Earth Balance margarine for dairy free, but beware it's melting point and it's burning point are much lower than regular butter)

Make your slaw a day in advance if possible, if not, just allow yourself at least 30 minutes to an hour for the flavors to meld and begin to pickle the veggies.  In a small saucepan, heat the water, vinegar and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Prep your cabbage, cilantro and carrots and then toss into a bowl.  Pour the liquid over, and sprinkle with a pinch of two of Kosher salt and toss to fully combine.  Cover bowl and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes up to 24 hrs (the longer it sits the better).

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together your sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, Sriracha and garlic, till fully combined.  Then add in your sliced ribeye and toss to coat.  Set aside and allow to marinate while you prep the arepas.

Next, prep your dough for the arepas.  If you're not familiar with these, they are fried white corn cakes, so think of a crispy, savory pancake.  In a bowl stir together your masa, salt and warm water until there are no more masa lumps.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Take a handfull of arepa dough and pat it out into palm sized rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place into sizzling butter.  Brown each side for about 4 minutes until both sides are golden, then transfer to a separate place to cool.  Once you're about half way through the dough, time things so that you can begin to cook up your beef while a batch of arepas cook.  Then do the fun juggling act of tending to both!

In a large skillet, heat your sesame oil over high heat, but take care to not allow it to burn.  Once you start to see little bubbles in the oil, that means it's ready so pour in your beef, marinade and all, and toss with tongs to cook.  Cook beef on high heat until you can no longer see pink on the meat, and no longer otherwise you're going to have chewy bits of beef.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Finish cooking up all your arepas and then begin the assembly process.  For each serving, place 1 arepa on a plate and top with beef. Use a spoon to drizzle some of the pan sauce over the beef and arepa for extra favor.  Then top the beef with a generous dollop of the slaw, and if you're a heat freak like me, grab that bottle of Sriracha and drizzle some extra over top the slaw.  Devour immediately!

We ended up with more arepas and slaw than beef, so problem solved, they made a delicious meat free pairing sans the beef.  It was my lunch today.  Yes, I've had three meals out of this dish, and I'm debating whether to be a really good wife and let the Mister take leftovers for his lunch on the night shift, or just go for round 4 for my dinner.  I'm not feeling like so good of a wife right now when I know what's hiding in my fridge.  And yes, this reheats superb, just heat an arepa topped with beef for about 30 seconds to a minute and you're set to top with slaw, devour, and repeat!

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