BACK IN LA: KOGI KOREAN TACO TRUCK. NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL STREET FOOD
I can often be found on twitter, Facebook, Dos Hermanos and well, just about anywhere where people will listen, railing against Britain’s lousy attempts at Street Food. Particular ire is retained for the “F**king burrito stalls” that have appeared all over London like pimples on a teenaged boy dipped daily in butter.
“What” people respond “do you have against Burritos?” as if my Ahab like dislike of our attempts at this Mexican and Tex-Mex classic has anything to do with the dish itself. It doesn’t and, for the record, I actually rather like burritos. It is just, like so many things in London, our attempts are often so half-hearted and polite that you have to shake your heads and wonder why they bothered. Burritos in London are the outward and visible sign of inward and festering ineptitude. Proof if it were needed that we still have a long way to go if we are to claim any sort of decent street food culture.
Move on to LA, where I arrived last night to spend a month in the company of my long-suffering fiancé Sybil. After a morning of writing, which is what I came here to do, we decided to pop out for lunch. As luck would have it, her research showed that a favourite taco truck would be just around the corner from her apartment, parked outside the Sony Studios.
Kogi, however, is no ordinary taco truck, it is a remarkable hybrid of L.A’s ethnic diversity and superb tradition of street food, combining as it does Mexican favourites with Korean delicacies. So popular has it become that thousands of people follow its progress on Twitter and many more similar trucks have sprung up in imitation.
None, according to Sybil are as good as Kogi and, she is not the only one who thinks so. We arrived soon after the truck did and already a long line was forming in anticipation. A happy gaggle of film studio workers talking about their choices of “Kimchi Quesadilla” and “Spicy Korean Pork Sliders” while those in the truck were already busy cooking and wrapping in rapid style.
Such a collaboration shouldn’t work. In fact it should be horrible. Given my dislike of the sort of “fusion confusion” we often see in London, I should have run and hidden under the bed when Sybil suggested I go for a couple of “Korean Short Rib Tacos”
But, like the good little husband to be that I am, I kept my mouth shut and we soon came away with a ludicrously large amount of food for a ludicrously small amount of money.
Back at the apartment, Sybil dished up, snarling at me like a rabid dog when I approached for a taste of her “smashed pork” sandwich giving a primal scream and a wave of her hands that said “this is all me, Baby” while protecting her food. It didn’t matter there was plenty for two. In fact there was plenty for two families and that we soon demolished the lot was down to our greed not their small portions.
It was wonderfully messy stuff and the sliders, small hamburger buns filled with spicy beef, were a particular hot hit as we both ate with little thought to the grease and sauce dribbling down our chins. This is real street food from a real street food culture, sizeable portions of unapologetic food with great flavours at astonishing value for money.
There are those who are genuinely trying to create a similar culture for us in the UK. I applaud that and note that we will soon have a UK Street Food awards to help promote them. All well and good, but first of all, may I suggest everyone involved heads over to LA, arguably (let’s hear the NY’ers squeal in protest) the street food capital of the US and see how it is really done.
“F**king Burritos” indeed