Back in March, I covered the burgeoning food truck scene here in Austin, Texas, during the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive festival. There’s a food truck/trailer for just about every type of cuisine here, including many that offer their take on fusion fare. Due to a word limit for print, I didn’t get too in depth about the actual food that these mobile eateries proffer, but I felt like it was time to highlight a few of my favorite dishes (and recipes for recreating them).
For my first installment, I feel it’s necessary to feature the first food truck dish I fell in love with: Chi’lantro’s Korean-American fusion kimchi fries. Though I can appreciate a wide range of cuisines and top-notch ingredients, it’s simple comfort food that I end up craving at the end of the day (or after a long night hitting the local bar scene) and this dish is just that. Exotic and tangy Korean barbecue and kimchi is piled atop a bed of warm, crispy French fries and topped with cheese, cilantro, “magic sauce”, Sriracha and sesame seeds. Not the healthiest pick, but it’s for darn sure one of the best eats in the city.
I had been itching to recreate this recipe at home but couldn’t figure out their exact formula for some of the elements in it. Lucky for me, Chi’Lantro’s chef and owner Jae Kim shared his secret recipe in the May issue of Food & Wine Magazine. While the original formulation is divine, I can never follow a recipe without putting my own spin on it. So here’s my take on this Korean barbecue junk food treat. Try it once and I promise you’ll be hooked.
One quick note on the kimchi (or “kimchee”): While fermented cabbage may not sound very appetizing, this element is key to the dish. If you’re ambitious and have the necessary ingredients on-hand — like Korean chili powder and salted shrimp — and a month to ferment it, make your own at home. Otherwise, you can most likely find it already prepared at at your local Asian market. It’s a fabulous condiment to have in your fridge whether you’re making this, serving it alongside a traditional Korean dish, or even slapping it in a grilled cheese sandwich (which is also amazing).
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