From Seoul to Sonora: The Kimchi Quesadilla
Huaraches…there and back again.
One of my greatest pleasures in life is cheap food. Expensive food can be incredible too, but there’s some warm feeling that bubbles up inside of me when something is so mind-blowingly delicious and also under $5.00. Cheap food, unlike cheap clothing or cars is not usually a sign of lesser quality and crappy materials, it is often a sign of perfection, since the restaurant has no doubt perfected their cuisine and is able to share it with members of the community for a price they can afford. Incredible cheap food is usually found in small ethnic communities far away from downtown areas. For example…you don’t get good Mexican food on flashy Alvera St in Downtown LA, you get it in Highland Park. Last Thursday, my fellow foodie friend Brittany and I drove to Highland Park, an area of LA about 30 minutes from the valley off some confusing network of freeways that I’m not going to bother explainging…you have google maps on your phone for christ sake, for Huaraches. Think of the huarache sandal…and then replace the sole with a super thick tortilla layered with refried beans, throw your favorite taco ingredients on top, serve with a knife and fork and you have your huarache. I didn’t feel like driving all the way back to highland park, so I decided to make my own. You’ll need a pretty well-stocked Mexican market for this one. They were pretty delicious, not as delicious as Huarache Azteca, but pretty close. My main concern was that the Huaraches were store-bought and hardened up as I ate, so next time I might try making my own.
AJ’s Lazy Huaraches
Time: 60 min
You will need:
10 Huaraches (found next to the tortillas)
1/2 Canola Oil or other vegetable oil
2 1/2 lbs cubed steak
2 Tbs carne asada seasoning (like I said…LAZY)
1 tsp onion salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups refried beans (I suggest buying them from the food counter)
2 cups chopped white onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups iceberg lettuce
1 cup salsa of your choice
1 can salsa verde
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups crema (mexican cross between yogurt and sour cream…yum)
1 cup grated Cotija cheese (it’s usually sold pre-grated like parmesan)
1. Chop up all your vegetable first, and set aside…this will make things easier and faster.
2. In a large bowl, mix the chopped yellow onion and steak together and add the carne asada seasoning, onion salt and garlic. Heat a cast-iron skilled and begin to sautee the mixture with 2 Tbs. canola oil over a medium flame. When you no longer notice pink steak (about 6 minutes) cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes, stiffing occasionally and adding more oil as needed.
3. In a large non-stick pan coated with olive oil, begin to brown the Huaraches. They should be cooked for about 3 minutes on each side, or until scorch marks appear. Ideally, they should puff up, but I wasn’t so successful. Allow them to cool, then make an inscicion along one of the edges and cut in half so you are able to spread beans inside, but not sever the top from the bottom.
4. When the meat is done, serve immediately and be sure to explain to your guests how to assemble there huarches in this order: Open the huarache and spread a thin layer of beans. On top, first add the meat, then lettuce, then tomatoes, onions, cilantro and both red and green salsa. Then drizzle crema and sprinkle with cotija cheese, eat with a knife and fork.
Huarache Azteca Restaurante5225 York BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90042
moving right along….
Los Angeles is in the midst of a passionate love affair with food trucks. Ever since the summer, angelenos have been following and flocking to these mobile culinary spots that promise to serve up some of the most interesting and deliciously cheap food. (I’m all about the cheap) Perhaps the most famous food truck is the Kogi Truck, a genius fusion of Mexican and Korean cuisines that at first might sound a bit strange, but trust me, WOW. I dragged my friend Casey there (even though he wasn’t hungry, I force-fed him Kimchi quesadilla slices) and waited just about ten minutes. I should add that I’m way behind the times and this Kogi truck has been around forever. It used to be that you had to follow them on twitter to find out where they would be parking, but now, conveniently there are four trucks and a website that details their routes for the week, LOVE IT. Anyways, the quesadilla was delisioso and covered in the most amazing chilipaste/salsa fusiony thing that I will have to try to replicate someday. I also had the Spare Rib Taco..and YUM, although it wasn’t as interesting as the quesadilla. The sweetness of the Bulgoki definitely breathes new life into the classic taco. So, as a compliment to my Huaraches, I also made Kimchi Quesadillas, also very lazily and without much effort, but delicious none-the-less.
AJ’s Lazy Kimchi Quesadillas
Time: 10 min
You will need:
4 large flour tortillas
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup jack cheese (you can use whatever you like, but I find cheddar and jack to be the best quesadilla combo)
1 cup kimchi (whole foods has a nice one, or get the real stuff from a Korean market)
cilantro for garnish
butter for the pan
1. Heat a non-stick pan. Melt butter in the pan and add a tortilla, sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle 1/4 cup kimchi and then fold over. The tortilla should be crispy and have some scorch marks, cut into pieces and serve with salsa and crema.