Why Does This Article Irk Me?

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A piece appeared in The Korea Herald today titled “On the Border on the move to export bulgogi taco to U.S.” Maybe the article is unclear, or it’s a little presumptuous of the Korean franchise of On the Border. It opens with this.

Korean-Mexican fusion bulgogi tacos just recently gained popularity in Los Angeles in the U.S. with the rise of bulgogi taco trucks run by Korean Americans.

Seizing on this momentum, the Korean franchise of On the Border Mexican Grill will export bulgogi tacos and burritos to U.S. consumers through more than 200 outlets of the U.S. restaurant, as it has developed bulgogi menus for casual dining.

So…

A. Bulgogi tacos began in the U.S.

B. A Korean restaurant will export bulgogi tacos to the U.S.

Next, according to standard journalistic practice, we have the quote.

“We’ve been always thinking how to introduce Korean foods to the world. And finally, the R&D team of JRW, which operates On the Border in Korea, has developed bulgogi taco and burritos,” said Jimmy Lee, CEO of JRW Inc., in an interview with The Korea Herald.

But… if Ko-Mex trucks have already introduced it to the U.S., how can you introduce it? I think I’m reading this article in a way where On the Border Korea believes that it has invented the bulgogi taco. But Roy Choi’s Kogi already did that in 2008. And we did it on ZenKimchi even before that (2006 recipe, 2010 award-winning recipe).

I don’t know if it’s OTB’s intention or if it’s the way the article is written. I had to read it a couple of times to make sure it didn’t say OTB was a Korean company. It has to be confusing times. Longtime parent company Brinker International (Chili’s, Maggiano’s) started selling OTB to a private securities firm earlier this year.

On a side note, wow, how the mighty have been falling. I worked as a bartender at Chili’s for a brief down period in 2001, and back then Brinker owned a shiteload of restaurant brands. Now they’re down to two and a fraction with partial ownership of their former brand Macaroni Grill.

Back to the Korean franchise of OTB, my guess is that they’re developing the Ko-Mex menu for the OTB home offices. Local chain Dos Tacos, which really is a Korean homegrown franchise, already started selling it at their Hongdae location a while back (and I like them).

Other than that, there really aren’t any galbi tacos, bulgogi burritos or kimchi quesadillas in Korea. Really, there aren’t. It’s a So Cal phenomenon and more American than Korean or Mexican. That’s why the article irks me. A trend that only exists in the U.S. is being exported to the U.S. from Korea, where the trend doesn’t exist.

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8 thoughts on “Why Does This Article Irk Me?”

  1. Jose Bernstein’s in Westwood has had a kimchi-kalbi burrito on their menu for ages . . . used to pick one up for lunch occasionally back when I was at UCLA in 2004-6 . . .
    So yeah, it’s actually pretty old school SoCal food, and the notion that any particular entity can “introduce” or “created” it is pretty silly bunkum.

    Reply
  2. Jose Bernstein’s in Westwood has had a kimchi-kalbi burrito on their menu for ages . . . fatman used to pick one up for lunch occasionally back in the mid naughts . . .
    So yeah, it’s actually pretty old school SoCal food, and the notion that any particular entity can “introduce” or “created” it is pretty silly bunkum.

    Reply
  3. To ‘introduce’ something implies bringing it to a given community or population for the first time. Since kogi trucks aren’t exactly widespread along the US, the restaurants would indeed be ‘introducing’ the products to a given area.

    With that said, it sounds like they’re capitalizing on a trend and rebranding it – welcome to standard Korean business practice…

    Reply
  4. Hey I really enjoy your website and your perspective. About the whole Korean taco trend, it’s just a trend. It’s gonna fade eventually because how much street food can you really eat? And yes korean-flavored tacos are good, but ultimately when I want tacos, I want carne asada with some tomatillo sauce more often than galbi with kimchi puree and soy-sesame salad. And ya it has sort of injected Korean cuisine into the general food world vernacular, but it’s still the same stuff everybody knew… aka cabbage kimchi and Korean BBQ. I feel like KoGi and all those spinoffs are just trying to make as much money as they can now, before another ethnic group latches onto the taco street food thing. Why can’t Indian tacos work or Aussie tacos or Thai tacos, ya know? We need some dedicated chef-owners to introduce real Korean food and show people that Korean food is different from other Asian cuisine and is more than just grilled meat. You see French cuisine, from its inception to now, and you see so much development in terms of flavor, lightness, presentation, and techniques. You see Korean food, and its rich history, yet the food is practically the same from hundreds of years ago. We need more progress! It’s not going to happen with this Korean government, only from the hands of business owners who go out on a limb.

    Reply

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