Seoul Taco introduces Korean fusion to St. Louis
For those who didn’t grow up in a large city, it’s completely understandable not to have heard of Korean food served in a tortilla. But St. Louis native David Choi is trying to change that, one taco at a time.
Choi and his business partner Andy Heck are the owners of the Seoul Taco food truck, which serves traditional Korean food with a Mexican twist. The truck serves traditional Korean food, such as bulgogi (literally, “fire meat”) and spicy pork, on a taco or inside a quesadilla. Seoul Taco is only in its third month and makes a weekly stop at Wash. U. on Thursdays.
Choi, a self-described “foodie”, first encountered Korean tacos while traveling through the country.
“Everyone was telling me about these Korean tacos. I tried it at one of these trucks, and then I tried it in Chicago at a brick-and-mortar store up there called Del Seoul. I said, ‘I could do this too, and St. Louis should have one of these.’ I looked into it a little more and it was definitely attainable,” Choi said.
Growing up as a Korean-American, Choi had a lot of experience with Korean barbecue. But the idea of Korean tacos was completely foreign to his family. It wasn’t until they tried his tacos that they came around to the idea.
“My family, at first they were like, ‘What are you, crazy?’” Choi said. “They are traditional Koreans, but they opened up to the idea and they tried the food. When I cooked it for them, they loved it too and getting that blessing from them was a huge step.”Since starting Seoul Taco, Choi has found an ever-increasing audience even though he doesn’t advertise in the traditional sense. Seoul Taco has utilized social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to report its weekly locations.
“Facebook and Twitter are a huge deal. We don’t have to pay for advertising,” Choi said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without it.”
In addition, Seoul Taco tries to maintain some set locations throughout the week so that people know where they can get Korean tacos without having to check Facebook or Twitter. This coming Thursday, the truck will be at the Catholic Student Center from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Seoul Taco will alternate every week between the Catholic Student Center and the Unity Christ Church (at Skinker and Forsyth Boulevards).
I arrived at Seoul Taco around 1 p.m. The busy lunch hour seemed to have passed already, although there was still a steady stream of customers putting in the last orders of the day. I ordered the bulgogi taco and spicy pork quesadilla.
The bulgogi was a tender steak that was very well marinated, with the flavor seeping into every bit of the meat. This is probably due to the overnight marinating process, as well as the 15 or 16 ingredients in the marinade itself. The primary flavor in the spicy pork quesadilla was the gochujang (a fermented red pepper paste common in Korean cuisine). This dish really captured the flavor of the Korean-Mexican combination by mixing the gochujang-flavored pork with cheese and sour cream.
For those looking to eat a little healthier, the spicy pork is probably not a wise choice. The meat is actually pork belly, which Choi describes as “Korean bacon.” It’s a fattier cut, but the taste is well worth the one-time indulgence.
In addition to beef and pork, the truck also has chicken tacos and quesadillas, as well as tofu tacos for vegetarians. Most recently, Seoul Taco added gogi bowls to its menu. To those more familiar with Korean food, the gogi bowls are basically a bibimbap. Choi suggests that everyone should try and get the gogi bowls if they can, but he said that they tend to sell out by 12:30 p.m.
For now, Choi has been pleased with the number of people who have taken a liking to Seoul Taco, and hopes that it’s a trend that continues.
“We’ve got a great response from everybody and it’s starting to grow every time we come back to Wash. U.,” he said. “We’ve been out on rainy days and still have solid days and that’s great to see.”