The Revenge of the Food Truck That Ate LA (the Feast of the Chicken)

March  6, 2013
0 Ratings
  • Serves 8 I hope
Author Notes

My previous taco recipe called for beef. But I did want to begin to work poultry into the “feast”. Here we have food truck barbecue chicken tacos with kimchi. They are delicious. The chicken portion of the recipe is closely adapted from The Kimchi Chronicles by Marja Vongerichten. The recipe works so well that I only gave it a couple of small tweaks. From that foundation we move on to serious tacos. You will need to use real hardwood charcoal and if possible wood chips (cherry being great) for your fuel. My recipe calls for chicken thighs. Cook more than you will need for the tacos and enjoy some thighs while they await the following day’s meal.
For grilling, bank your wood coals up to one side. Soak the (cherry) wood chips in water for about an hour and place those on top of your hot coals---the smoke will really crank up. And this is a hot smoke recipe. Keep your chicken thighs away from the space directly over the coals. You will need to do this in batches occasionally adding more coals and chips. The thighs will be done when they hit 160F measured by an instant read. —pierino

What You'll Need
  • 8-10 chicken thighs, skin on bone in (about 4 pounds), allow one thigh per taco
  • 1 cup water plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup gochujang (red pepper paste)*
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean pepper powder)**
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Splash dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as Three Crab)
  • 6 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 8-10 medium flour tortillas
  • About 6 ounces cotija cheese crumbled
  • About 8 ounces best quality kimchi (use that Hawaiian crap only as a last resort)
  • Kim™ hot sauce or other good hot sauce. Kim™ is heavy on the pepper paste as opposed to the vinegar.
  1. In a large bowl combine the pepper paste, powdered red pepper, sesame oil, marmalade, soy sauce, wine, garlic and fish sauce. Whisk this together. Because of the gochujang this mixture will be very gooey and very sticky.
  2. Make your brine by dissolving the salt into boiling water. Inject this mixture into the thickest part of the thighs.
  3. A few pieces at a time plunge the thighs in the sauce, coating well and transfer to a platter to refrigerate for 6 hours.
  4. Start your wood fire, again banking the coals and soaked wood chips to one side. Place the thighs on the outside margin of the hot coals, but not directly over. They won’t all fit at once so you will have to do them in batches. Cover. Turn once and once only. If I see you flipping these guys I’m going to smack you with my spatula and it will leave a mark.
  5. The thighs are done when the fleshiest part reads 160F on an instant read thermometer
  6. On the following day, using a sharp knife and a fork remove as much meat as you can from each thigh. Cut or shred the meat into small pieces. Warm in the oven or in a microwave.
  7. Arrange your tortillas in such a way that’s easy to scoop in the fillings (see photo). Add the thigh meat and a squirt of hot sauce if desired. Follow that with the cotija cheese and finally the kimchi. You might want to run these through the microwave again, but for no more than 30 seconds.
  8. *I’m sorry but I’ve not yet been able to find a substitute for the gochujang. It is very sticky and perfect for this chicken preparation.
  9. **For gochugaru you are safe substituting a Spanish pimenton, maybe ahumado (smoked)

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  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • pierino
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.

2 Reviews

LeBec F. March 8, 2013
p,i am fascinated by this! but i need to ask some questions:
-why not leave the chicken in the mixture to marinade/why lift it out?
-is overnight o.k.? -i don't see strong acids that would cause the chick to get mushy)
-you do want to use your brine after it has cooled,yes?
-tell me about injecting; i know not of it.
( why not brine for longer? and does the brine spread throughout the thigh from one injection point?)
- why not have the thighs over the fire? if they're not on the fire, are you aiming for a low heat/long time smoking of a few hours?that would be very time consuming to do in batches.....
We use wood chips over coals and then we grill salmon or steak directly over the coals, and they each get plenty of smokey flavor.....
TIA for the education. love the orange and soy element.

pierino March 8, 2013
Le Bec Fin, the chicken can only improve with an overnight marinade but it is a sticky, gooey one and not a wet one. The brine is injected before you place the meat on the grill. I've been fooling around with internal brines for a year or so. The injector looks like a big hypodermic needle, like the ones they use for a spinal tap. They are inexpensive and rather easy to find. The idea behind the internal brine is to keep the meat moist from the inside. It works.
Yes, it is slow and time consuming. Figure perhaps an hour for each batch. Depending on the size of your grill you might need to move the thighs back and forth closer to the heat source---but don't turn them more than once. You might also cut the recipe in half for faster grill to table presentation. But the theme is "feast" so cooking enough chicken for two days is part of the plan.
In the photo above there are those little arrow buttons so you can see the chicken at different stages and the final result. Thanks for asking.