LA: The Birthplace of the Nuevo Taco

  • Written by  Chef Ben Ford
  • Friday, 26 February 2016 00:00
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Photograph courtesy of Ben Ford Photograph courtesy of Ben Ford

Traditional taco trucks and roadside pop-ups have a long history in Los Angeles. But the idea of what a taco is has changed dramatically.

Korean influences are the most recent, but the notion of what a taco is was up for grabs decades prior to its acceptance in the United States. Similar to the United States, Mexico is a melting pot with influences ranging from Asian to Middle Eastern. Al Pastor is a great example of this; it’s actually a Lebanese dish that over a couple generations morphed from lamb cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served on a pita-like bread into a pork dish made with pineapple. So the fact that we are seeing the concept of a taco being pushed even further here in Los Angeles, where we have a rich and diverse population, is only to be expected.

Roy Choi is a chef of the people and knows Los Angeles extremely well. He understands the streets — having literally built his empire off of Kogi food trucks. It therefore makes perfect sense that he would be the one to blend the cultural in uences that we both grew up with into an innovative brand and a food concept that would change the face of cuisine not just in Los Angeles, but the whole country. When Korean and Mexican cultures collided in Los Angeles, Roy was there to develop the Korean Taco; and the world was made forever a better place.Today in Los Angeles, even the most traditional of Mexican taco trucks are enjoying their customers’ expanding and adventurous palates. And it’s not just food trucks that are serving them up; the twist on the taco has even caught the eye of fine dining chefs such as José Andrés, who is also taking liberties with the concept and creating tacos at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. One of his o erings is the Japanese taco: thin-shaved cucumber cradles BBQ freshwater eel llets sprinkled with black sesame seeds, shiso, wasabi and crunchy chicharron. The taco is definitely a fixture in the Los Angeles society and is here to stay for good, but only time will tell what it will taste and look like. tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #277 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

 

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