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February 16, 2013

Food Heaven on Wheels: ssahmBBQ

by Michael Langlois

Last night we went to this:

And it was awesome.  Street performances, paper lanterns, live music using traditional Chinese instruments…all fantastic.  Also, not what I want to tell you about.

See, this event was part of the Chinese New Year celebrations that started last weekend on the official day.  As such, it was partly inside the museum and partly out in the surrounding streets, where throngs of cold but jubilant celebrants could watch martial arts demonstrations and a spectacular traditional dragon dance.

It was basically a big old street party.  And you know what street parties bring, right?  Street food!  I know, I’m a bad man.  I was standing next to twenty-foot-long gyrating dragon and gazing longingly at the row of world-class food trucks down the block.

Specifically, this world-class food truck:

It was too dark to get a good shot, so you'll have to settle for this one from their site.

It was too dark to get a good shot, so you’ll have to settle for this one from their site.

If you look closely, you can see that the side of the truck says, “Gourmet Korean Tacos”.  What it should say is, “Minds blown, line forms to the left”.

First of all, the tacos.  Soft flour tortillas filled with kalbi (beef), daeji (pork), ddak (chicken), or dubu (tofu) and a stunning collection of crisp veggies, sesame soy vinaigrette,  Korean salsa roja, spicy mayo, and carmelized kimchi.  It’s amazing.  I had the kalbi and the daeji, and they were tender and sweetly spicy, and the taco itself was crunchy and bursting with tangy flavor, followed by a deep and mellow heat.

Next, the ssahmdog.  Ssahm (or ssam) is a traditional Korean dish where a crisp lettuce leaf is wrapped around meat, usually accompanied by rice and a spicy condiment.  Now, imagine that for the meat, you wrap some bacon around a hot dog and fry it, add caramelized kimchi and two kinds of spicy mayo, Monterrey jack cheese, and put the whole thing in a bun.  It looks like this, and it absolutely blew me away:

That stuff on top?  That’s what caramelized kimchi looks like.  I know, looks weird.  Tastes like pure unadulterated joy.  Spicy and dense and tangy, I could probably just eat that and call it a day.  I probably don’t have to tell you about a fried, bacon wrapped hotdog.  Should be illegal, glad it isn’t.  The spicy sauces were just short of scorching and perfectly offset the complex flavors of the dog, making every bite a blissful combination of meaty and crisp textures, sweet and spicy flavors, and hot and cold sensations.

Finally, KIMCHI FRIES.  I’m not going to say much about these except that the only thing that could possibly make caramelized kimchi better is to smother french fries in it and drizzle spicy sauce and shredded cheese over it.  I honestly don’t know how many of these you get in an order, because they almost didn’t make it to the table.  My advice, order two and eat them hunched over like Gollum so your ‘friends’ can’t steal any.

So.  I totally enjoyed celebrating the Year of the Snake.  I did.  But I may have enjoyed celebrating the Truck of the Ssahm a little more.  If you want to join me in stalking them around the city, go here to check their schedule of appearances.

Read more from Blog Posts, Food

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