Eating on the run. Marination Mobile.
I don't know much about tacos, or taco trucks, but I love Korean food. It brings back childhood memories of grilling marinated beef short ribs over tabletop grills, bowls of spicy kimchee and tangy marinated bean sprouts and potato salad (man, I loved that potato salad), rice sprinkled with sesame seeds. I was addicted to the sweet-salty taste of marinated beef, intensely caramelized at the charred edges of every bite; I even loved the smoky smell that clung to your hair, your skin, your clothes, hours after you had eaten your fill and headed home. That you could find all this tasty goodness wrapped in a tortilla seemed to good to be true.
Back in the Spring I had read about a Korean-Hawaiian taco truck that was about to set up shop in Seattle. Even better, they would be stopping in my neighborhood two or three nights a week, just about halfway between work and home (a dangerous location). I could hardly wait. Weeks went by. I tracked their progress on Twitter. Soon, they promised. Soon. Finally, someone else Tweeted pictures from some super-secret pre-opening party, with photos of ginger-miso chicken and spicy shredded pork tacos in paper boats. The anticipation was unbearable. Two days went by. I left work, ran some errands, had an iced tea and read The Soul of a Chef, and waited for the taco truck to open for business.
I could see various people getting ready from across the street, climbing in and out and walking around a shiny new silver truck (not a cool bubble Airstream like Skillet Street Food, or a Modernist pig on wheels like the Maximus/Minimus truck, which sells barbecue sandwiches). I gave up on pretending to read and walked over. I could see cooks moving around inside and smell delicious things, but they weren't quite ready. The opening hour was moved back half an hour. I was devastated. I walked around the block to Molly Moon and consoled myself with a small scoop of raspberry-mint sorbet (tasty, except I wish they had strained out the seeds) and killed another half an hour. Then I headed back to find a television crew interviewing one of the owners, and a line beginning to form. Any minute now! they tell me, and I stand there hoping that I will not wind up on tv.
Meanwhile the awnings go up, the counters flip down, and a side panel is raised to reveal an ice-tray filled with cold drinks. The menu is simple, the prices are reasonable, if not downright cheap, and I quickly make up my mind: three tacos, one beef, one chicken, one pork. I am the very first customer to place an order, the very first customer on Capitol Hill (the first day of business was the day before, in Fremont, and there were lines down the block), and sooner than I thought possible a paper boat is handed over, filled with tacos heaped with coleslaw, with sliced peppers and lime wedges on the side. I hold my precious cargo with both hands and run home, like a three-year-old with a butterfly caught in cupped hands. While waiting at stoplights I picked out a few bites of beef, which only left me wanting more. Before I knew it I was home and scarfing down my tacos.
They are perfect. The miso-ginger chicken is good, but it is not as interesting as the spicy pork shoulder (although apparently it is not spicy enough for most people, people who were not raised in the same hot-food-free environment as I was). Best of all is the kalbi beef, which is exactly like the barbecued beef I remember. All are wrapped in warm corn tortillas, with a smear of some creamy orange sauce, and a pile of crunchy fresh cabbage and carrots (I think, but I am too busy eating to really pay attention). I can't wait until next week, so I can try the other things on the menu.