In an earlier post, I wrote about the amazing fusion taco shop called Taco Ngon. Aside from making awesome tacos, one of the most impressive things about this shop is that the owner, Elin, churns out a new flavor every week for Taco Tuesday. Creations have ranged from kimchi beef to more traditional shrimp with mango salsa, to the truly-local-inspired lemongrass frog taco. In almost a year there have been no repeats! She also welcomes anyone who wants to be a Taco Ngon guest chef to try their hand in the kitchen.
Shaun Stevens – Taco Ngon Guest Chef
I decided to throw my hat into the ring and have a go as a Taco Ngon guest chef. I would be joining some pretty elite company, including Francis (of the aforementioned frog taco), Ben (with lemongrass pork) and Winson (al pastor tacos) who used to be a chef at Googe. Yeah, THAT Google. But what to make… I considered really pushing the envelope and making a dog taco, but Elin vetoed that on concerns that it might hurt her business. And then it hit me. It was so obvious, why hadn’t anyone done it before? Carnitas!
I’ve been eating carnitas since before I could walk. Coming from a beach town in Southern California, this is pretty much our regional dish. So I had an idea of what it should taste like, but less of an idea about how to cook it. First step: get a piece of pork butt or pork shoulder, rub it down with spices and brown it in oil.
Mix the juice from no less than three kinds of citrus fruit with some cinnamon and a can of soda. Back home, and I swear this is very traditional, people use Mexican Coke, since it’s made with sugar cane juice, not that corn syrup shit. I checked the ingredients on this Pepsi and found it contains đường so I figured it should work.
Toss that mixture, along with some chopped onions and garlic, into the pressure cooker.
After an hour, pull it out, get yerself a coupla’ forks and start shredding! Next time I would brown the meat a bit more before pressure-cooking. Some people shred the meat, then put it in the broiler, but those aren’t exactly common here in Vietnam…
I shredded the meat, then tossed it back into the juice from the pressure cooked, and it looked like this:
Chop up some onions & cilantro, squeeze a bit of lime and you’ve got yourself a great carnitas taco!
Reception was better than I imagined. People really loved the carnitas, with many customers ordering a second (and third!). There have even been requests circulating for an unprecedented repeat appearance on a future Taco Tuesday, pending ownership approval of course.
I personally really enjoyed being guest chef for a day. When I was cooking, I realized that this would be the first time someone paid money to eat food that I made. And when it was all finished, I was proud to have done a good job, tried something new and made something that people enjoyed eating. I’ve already got my sights set on another day as a Taco Ngon guest chef, but right now I’m just looking forward to today’s special: chicken coffee mole.
Want to learn more about the local food scene here in Da Nang? Come on my Da Nang food tour!