Spicy, Crunchy Korean BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos. Made with braised pork shoulder and Korean spices. Perfect for large parties or several small dinners.
Southern California, The Melting Pot
Korean-Mexican fusion has become all the rage nowadays. It seems like you can’t go out on the street without running into a Korean taco Truck. Well, I live in an area with a heavy Korean population, which means, there are tons of stores with delicious ingredients all over the place. I’ll be getting into them in a moment but first I want to talk about my inspiration for these spicy, crunchy, addictive treats. The blending of Korean and Mexican cuisines in America can be attributed in part to the melting pot known as Southern California. Due to its geographic location, LA is home to many East Asian and Latin American immigrants. The melding of these cultures has lead to some amazing dishes. Somewhere along the line Korean tacos were born.
This recipe of pulled pork shoulder coated with a gochugaru based rub. The meat is then braised for 4 hours or so until it is super tender. Take the meat and toss with the sauce and that’s it. OK there’s more to it than that so let’s dive in shall we?
There are 3 specifically Korean ingredients in this recipe: gochugaru, gochujang, and Korean rice syrup.
Gochugaru is a red pepper native to Korea. It has a sweet, smoky, and of course spicy flavor and is a staple of a lot of Korean dishes. The smokiness is similar to Spanish smoked paprika (aka Pimenton), which has become very popular recently but is heavier in flavor than gochugaru. Gochugaru comes in two forms, powdered and flakey and it can be found in any Korean grocer or on Amazon. Unlike most spices, which you can get away with buying the cheap stuff, the pricier Gochugaru is better and more flavorful.
Gochujang is a spicy paste made with gochugaru and soybeans. It’s sort of like spicy Korean miso. If you go to a Korean grocer and you can’t read Korean (I can’t) you will see several tubs like this on a shelf. You want the red one. You can also get it on Amazon.
Korean Rice Syrup
Lastly, Korean Rice Syrup is exactly what it sounds like. It’s syrup derived from the sugars in glutinous rice. I had to ask the lady at the store but now that you know what it looks like you can just pick it up. I found it on Amazon as well. It is cheaper locally, though, if you can find it.
Ok. Now that you’re familiar with your ingredients, we can finally get started. The recipe calls for pork shoulder and what’s great about pork shoulder is that it’s a cheap cut of meat. You can find them for about $1.50 a pound.
What we’re going to do is coat it with a dry rub, but first you must cut the skin off meat. If you’re squeamish or lazy have your butcher do it. It’s easy though just slip your knife under the skin and slowly cut it off while trying to keep as much fat on the meat as possible. That’s where the flavor is! Then when you’re done you can take the ol pigskin out back and play catch!
Take all the dry rub ingredients and put them in a jar and shake it up. You can also mix them in a bowl, but that’s way less fun. Then start rubbing your meat. Rub it good and hard. Get the spices in all the crevices.
That’s one well rubbed piece of meat.
Cover it and put it in the fridge overnight.
All The Hard Work Is Done
The next step is braising the pork shoulder. Preheat your oven to 325°F then heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear the meat; about 4-5 minutes each side. Protip: Open a window, or 2, or 3 and turn on your range fan because it’s about to get spicy up in here. Once all sides have a nice brown to them, take the meat out and pour in a quart of beef stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, put the meat back in. Put a lid on the pot, and transfer it to the oven. You’re going to want to cook it for about 4-4 1/2 hours. A trick I learned from NYT food writer Melissa Clark is to flip your meat when braising. So just take a pair of tongs and flip it every 45 minutes to get the meat to cook more evenly. About half way through you are probably going to need another quart of beef stock.
That’s it. It is ready when you can lightly pull at it with a fork and the meat falls off the bone. Take the meat out and pull it apart with 2 forks. It should be super tender at this point and the meat will look nice and stringy. Put it in a large bowl and coat the meat with the BBQ sauce.
You Should Have Something That Looks Like This
The topping is a variation on a small cucumber dish that’s traditionally served with Korean BBQ. It’s called Cucumber NaengGuk and it’s made by slicing and julienning a seedless cucumber and a daikon (Japanese radish) from the top. It’s super easy to do if you have a mandolin. Then soak them in cider vinegar, soy sauce, and a few other things. Spoon it all into taco shells and eat!
This recipe requires a little something special. Here’s a list of what you will need: