Korean Taco Bell: Can This Food Get Any Less Mexican?

Wow, it’s been almost a year since I wrote about McDonald’s in Korea, and how it compares to the golden arches back home in America (You can check out that post here: Korean McDonald’s: Classic Fast Food with a Korean Twist). Well, as a sequel of sorts, I’d like to shift my focus to another fast food joint that’s made it to this country. Continuing my quest to try restaurants familiar to me and finding what makes them uniquely Korean, I have arrived at Taco Bell. Kelly and I journeyed together for my first taste. I was surprised to find that a lot of the offerings were quite similar. Many of the same staples were no more or less authentically Mexican than they’ve ever been. However, there were definitely a few menu items that could only fly in Korea. Allow me to elaborate.

Let’s start off with the familiars. Kelly and I opted for some of our respective favorite menu offerings: a Crunchwrap Supreme for Kelly, and a Cheesy Gordita Crunch for me. These items certainly served up a similar flavor, and I couldn’t tell much of a difference from the “gorditas” I’ve had back in the States. I’ve always loved the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, as it was one of the foods my mom and I would sneakily eat when we didn’t feel like being kosher. I remember a younger teenage Rachel, ordering this food and feeling a little guilty but also very happy with my decision. Imagine that, thinking of something as sinfully delicious. Anyway, this food took me right back to those good old days. And now, I was enjoying some Taco Bell with the froup (although our choice back home, the Quesarito, was sadly lacking from the Korean menu). This is not necessarily of the highest quality, but with the highest quality company, anything can feel like a five star meal.

In addition to the tried and true favorites, we also had to venture for something distinctly Korean, and a limited item: the kimchi quesadilla. To me, you can’t get something that screams “Korean Taco Bell” more than this. We each took a bite, and it was….interesting. I have to say, I wish I had just gotten a cheese quesadilla, or something without kimchi. Don’t get me wrong, I love kimchi. I love it so much that some people have assumed it’s my favorite food based on my mere consumption rate in restaurants. However, not all kimchi is created equally, and the kimchi from Taco Bell just isn’t that good. It’s sour and plain weird-tasting. I don’t much care for fast food kimchi, I suppose. I think the Kimchi Quesadilla could have been great, if they used a different type of kimchi, or maybe they should have put it in a burrito instead. I’ve had kimchi with cheese and rice before, and it’s delectable. This particular food item, however, left something to be desired. In fact, I’m somewhat inspired to try my own homemade kimchi quesadilla. I think that given the right preparation, this dish could shine. Nice try anyway, Korean Taco Bell. You get an “A” for creativity, at least.

Although this is all the food we actually tasted, I’d like to mention some other unique fare from Korean Taco Bell. Although we didn’t order them personally, I did take note of them on the menu, and I might try them at a later date. Of course, there is the inevitable bulgogi. If you remember my McDonald’s blog, you will recall that they offer a Double Bulgogi Burger. Bulgogi is not too different from normal beef, except it is encompassed in a sweet soy sauce, kind of like the Korean version of teriyaki. While this sounds wonderful, and bulgogi is a delight on its own with a side of rice and other 반찬 (banchan, or Korean side dishes), I don’t know if I can get behind it in this case. Maybe they will pleasantly surprise me like McDonald’s, and I should try their Bulgogi Taco or Bulgogi Burrito when the mood strikes me. But for now, I’ll keep my Mexican food as cheesy and savory as possible.

One other strange thing I noticed is that Korean Taco Bell really likes potatoes. Like, a lot. There is a side of cheesy potatoes available, or you can order a Crispy Potato Taco or Crispy Potato Burrito. I don’t have much to say about these offerings as of yet, but I may have to try them next time I visit Taco Bell. You know, for science. What happens when you take out all the meat and protein, and replace it with fried starch? A menu item at Korean Taco Bell, that’s what.

Finally, the hot sauce packets. The flavors and general taste were much like home, except for one noticeable difference. You know how Taco Bell sauce packets have those cheeky little messages, like “Will you marry me?” or “You have chosen wisely”? Well, Korean Taco Bell has the same thing, except the messages are in Korean! This shouldn’t be too surprising, but just the novelty of it highly amused me. Our mild, hot, and fire sauce packets all had cute little sayings I’m sure, but they took a bit of detective work to figure out. I didn’t keep any of the packets myself, so please enjoy some that I found off the internet, courtesy of Google Images:

All in all, I’m not mad at Korean Taco Bell. Most of it was quite tasty, in fact. With that said, there are better Mexican food options in Korea. Although sometimes hard to find, they’re always worth the effort. Kelly and I have tried some Mexican food here that’s been great, and Kelly has even gotten a real taste for guacamole! Korea has changed us in so many unexpected ways. Anyway, if you need a quick fix and there’s no gourmet restaurant around, Taco Bell will do the job. It’s certainly not authentic, but was that ever the point of Taco Bell? For what it is, this fast food restaurant is a rare delight. And when us Westerners get some bad cravings for a taco or burrito in this strange new land, a Cheesy Gordita Crunch or Crunchwrap Supreme will do us just right!

Our Taco Bell orders! Note the side of nacho chips and cheese. Quite good!

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