Thai Weeping Tiger Steak Taco

[NOTE: This is the first in an on-going series of posts on fusion tacos, where food from around the world goes wild, and becomes something greater: a taco.]

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Dude,

I hope your hike is going well. Sorry about texting you when you were on the trail. I wasn’t thinking!

SO I found out there is a Thai taco fusion truck on the Drexel campus, just a couple miles away, so we went to find a taco today. I wanted to get some ideas from them, and, well, I just wanted a taco. Unfortunately, after driving around the city trying to find it, getting distracted and going to Trader Joe’s and a camera shop, we got to the taco truck…and it was closed for some reason.

Fortunately, I had two 5 oz. beef tenderloins thawing back at home, and bought some awesome flour tortillas at Trader Joe’s. So I went home and got started.

I absolutely love Thai food, but find myself ordering the same things when I’m at a restaurant. It’s only at home that I find myself dabbling in the other kinds of Thai food. But I’ve seen Weeping Tiger Steak served at a number of Thai restaurants, sometimes even cold over greens. There are several legends about Weeping Tiger Steak, ranging from someone stealing a cow from a tiger and him crying about it, to serving it so spicy that even a tiger couldn’t take the heat.

Whatever the case may be, I wanted to save the weeping for the salsa. A Thai salsa seemed tricky at first. From what I can tell, Weeping Tiger Steak is sometimes served with a dipping sauce, and the sauce sometimes has tomatoes. So I searched out a few Thai and Laotian chili sauces, took a few ideas, upped the tomato content, thereby adapting it into a salsa.

I took a dozen small tomatoes (you can use cherry tomatoes, mini heirlooms, whatever), and roasted them in a skillet with about 1/4 red onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Essentially, the idea is to blacken more than to sautee, and boy do the tomatoes get so delicious in the carmelization process. Once roasted, I put them in my food processor with 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper, 8 fresh and uncooked cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar.

The salsa is good enough for dipping chips, and there should be enough left over to use it for just that purpose. That said, some may not be a fan of the flavor of the fish sauce…so if I were to serve it as a dip, I’d consider omitting the fish sauce. However, at that point, it becomes less Thai and more Mexican.

For the beef, I took 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. I mixed well, and poured over the steaks. I let that marinate for about an hour, flipping over and shaking a few times to get the steaks covered really well. Then I simply threw them over the charcoal grill until ready.  Sliced into fajita style strips, and served over a flour tortilla with greens, tomatoes, and the “Thai salsa.”

To recap, here’s all the necessary ingredients:

  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 10 oz. beef

Salsa:

  • About 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbs white vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • Cooking oil (sesame, sunflower, whatever)

Finally:

  • Tortillas
  • Mixed greens
  • Sliced or diced tomatoes for taco garnish
  • Optional: Sriracha to taste

Makes three large tacos (8-inch flour tortillas), more if you use the 4 or 6 inch tortillas, of course.

Later,
jamey

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

I read this email on my phone on the way home, and almost made the guys search out a Thai restaurant.  It’s 8:22 in the morning now, and I want spicy steak after rereading this.

The flavors sound dead on fantastic, and I love the adaptations from Mexican and Thai.

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North Carolina Barbecue Sauce & Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Dude,

Since North Carolina is basically your next door neighbor, I doubt I have to be the one to tell you that North Carolina barbecue rocks.

1. I love vinegar.
2. I love spicy food.
3. I love to eat pigs.

On a side note, I think it’s funny that the word “barbecue” to a North Carolinian means pulled (or chopped) pork and a spicy vinegar sauce. My homeboy Brotha SouL gave me a blank look when I talked about barbecue chicken, or barbecue ribs. To him, Barbecue is a noun meaning only pulled pork. I guess they call the other stuff “grilled” or something? I don’t know.

Anyway, I have only recently begun to enjoy the wonders of NC barbecue. My first exposure was when I made a sauce recipe from Amazing Ribs. I could practically drink the stuff. But the first time I tasted actual, authentic barbecue in NC was last summer. My life was changed.

Some time ago, my friend Steve Robinson posted an update on Facebook that he made an East Carolina sauce. I generally trust his palate (except for his McDonald’s habit!), so I asked him for his recipe. In fact, I’m pretty sure I texted you a screen shot of his “seat of the pants…ballpark” sauce recipe. Here goes:

  • 2/3 Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 White vinegar
  • A couple Tbsp. brownsugar
  • Some salt
  • A good tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • Crushed red peppers (he used a 12-pepper mix from his sister, I used crushed and fermented red peppers that I made)
  • Some coarse black pepper
  • A couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • A couple tablespoons of ketchup

I like mine with a lot of black pepper…it just smells and tastes awesome, especially with the vinegar. Anyway, I made two 16 oz. Mason jars a couple of months ago. Wonderful stuff. Oh, and it’s best if left overnight for the flavors to blend. And shake it up whenever you think of it.

Now, the tacos. The tacos are easy. Get some pork. Doesn’t really matter what kind, or how much. I put three pork chops in my crock pot, and poured the sauce over them. Cooked it on low all day. About 6 or 7 hours in, I pulled the pork out, shredded it with a couple forks, and then put it back in the crock pot.

When I was almost ready to eat, I made a simply pico de gallo with diced tomato, red onion, fresh jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper. I poured some of the barbecue sauce over it and let it sit for about 10 minutes to soak up the flavor. Meanwhile, I warmed some flour tortillas in my cast iron skillet.

Once done with all of that, I removed the meat with a ladle with holes. After removing the meat, I further drained the pulled pork. (The reason for this is that you don’t want soggy tortillas!)

Anyway, I put the pork on the tortillas, threw on the pico, and a little bit of lettuce. Then I spooned a VERY small amount of more vinegar sauce on the top. It was AMAZING.

Next time, I’m going to try slaw instead of lettuce. But I don’t think I’ll change a thing about the meat or the sauce. And I’ll probably keep the pico.

jamey

from: Daniel Larkin
to: ”Jamey W. Bennett” 

I LOVE North Carolina BBQ.  I used to cook at a dive bar in Charlotte called The Penguin.  The place had three owners — a cook, a business man, and a maintenance guy — all with full sleeves of tattoos.

Anyway, the cook-owner got his start making BBQ, and he would still do all of our meats offsite with his secret recipe.  I also worked with an awesome Mexican dude named Manuel (Real name? Probably not.) and he’s the one who showed me how to make salsa.  Manuel would also bring his own corn tortillas into work, and we would deep fry them to make taco shells.  You already know what we filled them with!

Long story short, this is gonna fill a gap that was left in my belly after I quit The Penguin.

Carne Asada with Roasted Salsa


from: Jamey Bennett

to: Daniel Larkin

Dude, I made a really delicious, really simple roasted salsa. I just ate a few bites and my mouth is warm and fiesta-like. Four tomatoes, two jalapeños, red and yellow onion roasted for about 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Added it to the blender with four cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, cilantro, cayenne, crushed red pepper, lemon juice, and a splash of white vinegar.

Also, I came up with a good carne asada marinade. I make a lot of tacos (obviously), but my tacos never taste like street tacos. This was my attempt. I marinated cheap, cheap steak with white vinegar, soy sauce, fresh garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder, cumin, and paprika. I tried to keep the ingredients minimal, and only enough liquid to fully wet the meat. After a couple of hours, I cut the steak into small chunks, and tossed the pieces (with the marinade) into a skillet and cooked until no liquid remained.

Add to tortillas, throw on your taco toppings, add the roasted salsa, and bam. If anything, I won’t add salt next time, as the sodium in the soy sauce was plenty. I didn’t quite duplicate street tacos, but it was damn good.

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett 

I’ve got the day off today, and I was thinking about brewing.  I might just make a salsa too now!

Vegetarian Chicken Soft Tacos [Bonus: Pork Tacos]

[Note: This is the post that planted the seed that led to Two Dudes Foods.]

From: Daniel Larkin
Date: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 7:56 PM
Subject:
Today I share the secret
To: “jamey w. bennett”

After years of blindly making this recipe, I finally measured the ingredients for my chicken soft tacos.  I figured you should be the first person I share the recipe with.  If anyone can give me constructive feedback on my taco recipe, it’s you – the taco guy.  I make these veggie-style, using Quorn Naked Cutlets.  I’ve never made them with real chicken, but if I had to, I would first try using left-over chicken (fully cooked) shredded as thinly as possible.

I chop the Naked Cutlets into thin strips, lay them flat, and chop again until the pieces resemble shredded chicken like you expect to see in Mexican restaurant.  If you can find the Naked Cutlets in Philly, I would recommend this as a meat-free meal.  I know you could use a little taco in your meat fasting days.

So here it goes.

  • 6 oz chicken (this translates into 3 Naked Cutlets) finely shredded as mentioned above.
  • 8 oz can of no salt added tomato sauce
  • 4 oz orange juice.  (I measure this in the empty 8 oz tomato sauce can)
  • 4 oz water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Squirt of lemon or lime juice
  • Chopped cilantro

Jenny’s not a fan of overly overly-spicy foods, so these are super low on the heat scale.  But you can heat them up with cayenne and red pepper flakes, or by tossing a few Jalapenos in the marinade.

Marinate the chicken in all ingredients (except cilantro and lemon/lime juice) for at least 30 minutes.

Bring the mix to a boil, and simmer covered on low for 5 or 10 minutes.
Remove lid and simmer for another 15 minutes – until sauce has thickened or soaked into meat.

Toss in some chopped cilantro and squeeze in lemon/lime juice, and viola!

Let me know how it goes.  I would love the feedback.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I am eating the most amazing pulled pork tacos ever. I still haven’t made your faux chicken tacos, but you inspired this. I sauteed onions and jalapenos in olive oil, added precooked pulled pork and cilantro, then poured 100% mango-orange juice over it and cooked it until excess liquid was gone. Added to whole wheat tortillas (which I briefly browned in a skillet), added sour cream, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and homemade salsa. INCREDIBLE!

Jamey