By Becky Krystal
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011
Launching a food truck was not something husband and wife J.P. and Hyun Goree took lightly. How would spending so much time together in such a small space affect their relationship?
Two months after Seoul Food D.C.'s debut, the marriage seems as happy as the one between the Korean and Latin cuisine served from their magenta truck. The vehicle travels a set circuit in Arlington (a brick-and-mortar location there is under consideration) because it's too big to operate legally in the District of Columbia, which the Gorees found out after the business had been named.
They'd already had some experience sharing a workplace. Previously, both were on the staff at the Whole Foods Market Fair Lakes: J.P., 37, as a meat cutter and Hyun, 46, as a pastry chef.
The Fairfax pair got the idea for their fusion fare from similar ventures in Los Angeles that they researched online. Hyun is from Seoul, and her family's recipes are the basis for the menu, large by food truck standards with eight or so entrees.
Madison, Wis., native J.P. estimates they go through two 40-pound cases of Napa cabbage every 10 days. After tasting their kimchi, we can see why.
The pungent, spicy Korean condiment of fermented cabbage takes a starring role in the warm kimchi quesadilla ($6; with beef or chicken, $7.50). Sadly, a 20-minute commute back to the office reduced the flour tortilla to a state of gumminess. But even my colleagues who always prefer corn tortillas approved of the quesadilla filling.
We encountered the same problem with the grilled-pineapple, flour-tortilla'ed bulgogi burrito ($7). Otherwise, it was enjoyable; the fruit offsets the fiery kimchi, and a smear of refried beans holds the filling together.
The Gorees' bibimbap (tofu, $7; chicken, $7.50; skirt steak, $8) is a different take on the traditional Korean rice dish topped with vegetables and a fried egg. J.P. says they prefer to use baby greens and other fresh produce instead of cooked vegetables.
Although the bibimbap is the No. 1 seller, the Korean Superbowl is running a close second, J.P. says. Of everything we tried, it smacked the most of the Latin half of Seoul Food D.C.: dark-meat chicken mingled with cheese, jalapenos and queso fresco over a bed of sticky rice ($8). Like the quesadilla and bulgogi burrito, the bowl came with a generous garnish of Korean salsa roja, Hyun's variation on gochujang (a spicy Korean chili paste), which she makes with tomatillos and arbol peppers.
J.P. concocted the bowl one day when he was working and got hungry. "We weren't sure people were going to buy it, because it was sort of a mutt," he says.
That kind of endearing mix describes the truck in general, but this mutt is one we'd be happy to take home any day.