Continuing in my quest to create the Kogi short rib taco experience at home I came to the salsa. I generally associate tacos and Mexican food in general with spicy heat as I also do with Korean food. Since the Korean barbecue short ribs were relatively sweet I knew that the salsa would be a very important part of the tacos. Unfortunately I was not able to find an actual Kogi recipe so I needed to come up with my own.
The Kogi web site describes the salsa as such: "sesame-chili salsa roja". With that description I was thinking about a sauce made with a base of gochujang , a Korean fermented chili paste, with some sesame oil and seeds and maybe some ginger. After searching the Kogi site in depth I came across an old archived post that mentioned that it was a chili de arbol based salsa with ‘secret’ ingredients. When I saw that description I knew immediately what I wanted to do! I started with a basic chili de arbol salsa consisting of tomatoes, chilies de arbol, onion and garlic and I added some tomatillos for a depth of flavour. (Of course I roasted the tomatoes, tomatillos and onion to add even more flavour.) For the Korean fusion ingredients I added some ginger for a bit of a bite, some sesame oil for the aroma and flavour, some crushed toasted sesame seeds for some texture and the gochujang paste for some more heat and an additional layer of Korean flavour.
The salsa roja was pretty easy to make and it turned out so well! The only issue that I had with making the salsa was straining it, where I had to really work the salsa through the strainer with the back of a spoon to get all of the good stuff. It was well worth the effort though! The red salsa was nice and fiery hot and full of flavour. The first thing that hits you is the aroma of sesame oil which always reminds me of Asian food. Once you get it in your mouth you are hit be the intense heat which as it fades leaves you with a really tasty sauce. Since I added the crushed sesame seeds after straining the salsa they added a really nice texture to the otherwise smooth salsa. This red sauce is so addictive! I find myself eating it by the spoonful every time I pull it out to use.
Korean Style Salsa Roja
- 1/2 pound plum tomatoes
- 1/4 pound tomatillos (husked and washed)
- 1 cup water
- 1 ounce (about 20) dried chilies de arbol, toasted
- 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
- 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted and crushed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Roast the tomatoes and tomatillos until charred on all sides, about 10-12 minutes.
- Place the tomatoes, tomatillos, water, chiles de arbol and onion into a sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer until the onions are tender, about 20-30 minutes.
- Drain the water reserving it.
- Place everything other that the sesame seeds into a food processor or a blender and puree adding some of the reserved liquid if necessary.
- Strain the bits from the salsa.
- Mix in the toasted and crushed sesame seeds and season with salt and pepper.
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