Los Angeles may claim the first food trucks serving Korean barbecue tacos, but Eddie Song's Korilla BBQ truck is New York's own version of the genre. It was also ranked among the Village Voice's Top 10 Vegetarian Street Foods, but we won't hold that against it.
Korilla BBQ — a portmanteau of Korean and the Spanish word for grill (parilla) — is also TV-tested. A competitor on Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race, the Korilla BBQ guys were disqualified for cheating. I caught them near the Columbia University campus on 116th and Amsterdam — a neighborhood crawling with the nations' leaders-in-training, who can't get enough of their BBQ mashups, cheating chefs or no.
I chose the tacos over the burritos (ssams) or rice bowls for the most favorable meat-to-carbohydrate ratio. The burritos do come with the truck's signature bacon fried rice for an extra $1. As carbs go, a street-meat eater could do worse than fried rice with bacon.
For the uninitiated, Korean BBQ tacos combine the sweet-smoky-savoriness of the cuisine's typical prepared meat with the sour-piquancy of traditional kimchee — fermented cabbage and chili peppers — standing in for traditional tacos' green toppings. The truck's assembly-line approach means customization opportunities — cheese (no), salsa (yes), kimchee (of course), extra hot mayo (sure, why not).
Even with a palate ravaged by years of capsicum abuse, I could pick out the distinct notes, and the heat was well within the range of accenting the sweetness without overpowering it, while the kimchee's sourness is a well-placed counterpoint.
And three minutes later, on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, they were gone, and I was on my way. Street meat, after all, should be about flavors that transcend the time it takes to eat it. Korilla BBQ is all about that. Next time, bacon fried rice, you're mine.
Loving Jalopnik's Street Meat Week? Check out Truck Yeah, where gourmet food, art, music, and design trucks convene at the Crown Victoria Bar in Williamsburg to celebrate mobile culture in NYC. Truck Yeah is produced by Art Cart NYC, Etta Place and Gawker Artists and sponsored by Jalopnik. October 2, 12-6pm | 60 S 2nd St @ Wythe