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Springtime radishes and green onions spice up easy Korean chicken tacos

Easy Korean tacos with radish slaw
Easy Korean tacos with radish slaw

The spring growing season’s cooler temperatures and rain, rain, rain have been kind to bulb crops such as radishes. Green onions are also ready to harvest now, and the two pair nicely in this easy recipe for Korean fusion chicken tacos.

Americans don’t often think of radishes except as part of a relish tray, but they’re a surprisingly versatile vegetable. Here they get a quick pickle to turn into a spicy, crunchy slaw. Try braising them in chicken stock and butter for a new taste akin to a punchier turnip.

Gochujang, a Korean condiment made with chili peppers, is the secret weapon here. With a texture somewhere between peanut butter and tomato paste, it gives the tacos a sweet and spicy kick. Star food editor Jill Wendholdt Silva looked at it and other hot Asian condiments in this story from earlier this year. There is no perfect substitute in this recipe, as most other hot sauces have the wrong texture.

Gochujang’s heat level varies widely among different brands, with some almost as mild as ketchup and others that can obliterate your taste buds. One problem in getting familiar with it: Since it hasn’t yet penetrated America’s mainstream, most choices at Asian markets have little to no English on the package to indicate how fiery they are. Ask a friend who speaks Korean, or experiment. You can tame too-hot brands with miso or doenjang, a similar mild Korean soy bean paste.

Since lettuce is also abundant in area gardens right now, you could substitute large leaves of sturdy varieties for the tortillas. You’ll have a lighter meal that’s similar to the popular Korean dish ssam. Traditional ssam is served with ssamjang, a condiment made with gochujang augmented with doenjang, garlic and onions. Pre-mixed brands are available in Asian markets.

Take a tip from your favorite taco truck: Smaller pieces of meat make for easier eating. And feel free to experiment with the protein. Tender pieces of beef, pork, tofu or seitan would be right at home here.

Korean chicken tacos with radish slaw

Just a few ingredients pack a lot of flavorful punch into these quick and easy fusion tacos.

Makes 2 servings

Preparation: 20 minutes

2 large radishes, about the size of golf balls

1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste

4 green onions (scallions), whites and light-green parts only

3 tablespoons gochujang

1 tablespoon medium soy sauce

8 ounces cooked boneless chicken, white, dark or a combination

4 corn tortillas

Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut radishes into 1/8-inch matchsticks . Put them in a bowl and combine with the rice wine vinegar and sugar. The spicier your radishes, the more sugar you may want to use. Mix well and set aside, making sure the vinegar is in contact with all the radishes.

Cut chicken into 3/4-inch pieces and keep warm.

Cut the scallions lengthwise, then into 3/4-inch pieces.

Mix together gochujang and soy sauce.

Assemble the tacos. Warm tortillas two at a time in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat. Cook about 45 seconds per side, until warm and pliable.

Fill tortillas with meat, then garnish with drained radish slaw and scallions. Top with gochujang sauce to taste. Serve immediately.