Vietnamese Street Tacos

Sometimes I take for granted how lucky I am to have been exposed to all kinds of food, even if some of them minimally, in my life. Growing up in an ethnically diverse pocket of Southern California certainly helped as did a generally curious and adventurous appetite that often inspired long drives (and sometimes even flights) away from that pocket to taste what couldn't be tasted where I lived.

There was no major food culture from which I couldn't get at least a decent sampling, and less represented ones, while requiring a little more research and legwork, were there for the discovering if I dared.

Having sampled so many delicious things from many different places, and having learned how to cook quite a few of them, I've observed that, as with so much about the human condition, there is often much more similarity and overlap across food cultures than we might recognize through our initial fascination with what is foreign and exotic to us.

And all that exposure, while humbling in the sense that you begin to realize you will never learn everything there is to know, is also comforting in the sense that you begin to pick up similar concepts, techniques, and flavor profiles that have managed to inform the cuisines of your fellow human beings everywhere.

So while the usage of the word "fusion" in the culinary sense often makes me cringe in the same way "foodie" and "gourmet" do, the truth is that fusion is a naturally occurring thought process that begins to take hold as you widen your culinary horizons.

At its best, fusion is an exercise in supplementing, substituting, contrasting and complementing ingredients and ideas without the restriction of boundaries and yet with a wonderful awareness that you have hopefully managed to integrate two or more cultures beautifully, harmoniously, deliciously, if only on a plate.

I hope that's what you'll discover when you take a bite of these Vietnamese Street Tacos - a charred corn tortilla filled with the sweet-savory umami of Vietnamese Caramelized Pork, the sweet-tangy crunch of Vietnamese pickled carrots and radish, the creamy-tangy heat of a Mexican-inspired Habanero Lime Garlic Crema, and the zip of some beautiful jewel-toned Ecuadorean style pickled red onions.

Vietnamese Street Tacos
Makes at least 12 tacos
Time: 90 to 120 minutes

To make these tacos, you will need (click links for component recipes - I recommend printing them all out to compile your grocery list):

- Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

- Cebollas Rojas Encurtidas (Ecuadorean Style Pickled Red Onions)

- Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Carrots & Radish)

- Habanero Lime Garlic Crema

- chopped cilantro and thinly sliced red and/or green cabbage (about half a small head's worth), and Huy Fong sriracha (aka Rooster Sauce)

- at least 12 charred corn tortillas (you may want to double up - some tortilla brands are thinner than others)

Because this is an assembly recipe, and you can technically prepare the components separately in any order you wish, the following is a recommended work flow for max efficiency.

1) Start on your Vietnamese Caramelized pork and work up to Step 4 in which you begin the long simmer.

2) While the pork is simmering, prepare the Cebollas Rojas Encurtidas up to Step 2 in which the onions are soaking in hot water.

3) While the onions are soaking in hot water, make the Do Chua.

4) When you're done with the Do Chua, come back and complete the pickled red onions.

5) Make the Habanero Lime Garlic Crema. By this time, your pork should be done or close to done.

6) Chop your cilantro and cabbage.

7) Warm or char your tortillas. I char the tortillas directly over a medium high gas flame for about 10 seconds per side.

I like to serve the components buffet style, left to right, in the order in which the tacos should get filled - tortillas, cabbage, meat, pickles, crema, cilantro, sriracha - and let everyone build their own.

A super cold, super crisp lager is my drink pairing of choice.

I hope you love these as much as we do. :)




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