• vegan dramz!! the kogi truck: what’s vegan and what’s not.

    March 12th, 2009quarrygirlkogi, LA restaurants

    let’s just set the record straight on what us vegans can eat at the kogi truck…because the information presently available is confusing to say the least. here goes!

    if you live in los angeles, i’m sure you’ve heard of the latest food craze to sweep the city…the kogi bbq truck. kogi serves up korean/mexican fusion food on the cheap with a menu full of tacos, burritos, and daily specials. the little truck has gotten so popular in just a few months, that it has been known to draw crowds of hundreds and even run out of food. i have been wanting to try their tofu tacos since forever…so imagine my excitement when i saw on vegguide.org that they were in fact vegan.

    kogi truck roja!

    kogi truck roja!

    i ate the tacos and pretty much raved about them in a review i posted this morning. my party was ruined, however, when a very informed commenter named louise left the following in reply to my post:

    Sorry to break it to you, but you just ate a mouthful of pork fat. The tortillas Kogi uses have manteca (lard) in them. That’s one reason why the BF (vegan) never eats their regular tacos. The only vegan one they have is the one wrapped in shiso leaf.

    um…so the tofu tacos aren’t even vegetarian? that can’t be right. i messaged the kogi truck (who knew about my blog post) via twitter telling them i found out that there was in fact lard in the tortillas. they immediately replied, “U are mistaken. Im the roja manager steve. Come take a look anytime. We use canola oil” and i was like, “are you sure there’s no lard in them?” and he said, “yes.”

    to follow up on the matter, we emailed the chef and told him we’d been hearing conflicting stories about the lard, and that the truck manager was saying the tacos were vegan friendly. it’s then that we got the sad, sad news from the kogi’s very own chef roy:

    our tortilla itself contains hints of Manteca although we use canola oil…but we have a vegan taco with sesame leaf as the “tortilla”

    alright dude, thanks for being honest. but that’s fucking so nasty that i ate something containing “hints of lard”. almost immediately after i received that email, the kogi twitter account deleted its tweets saying that the tortillas contained no lard, and sent me a direct message via twitter:

    aLL the homemade corn tortiLLas are made with a touch of Manteca. The fLour tortiLLas aren’t. Hey! You can order an eggLess burrito! ^__^ (and cheeseless)

    so that settles it. what a shame. those delicious fluffy tofu tacos topped with sesame-chili salsa, romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in korean chilli-soy vinaigrette, and cilantro-green onion-lime relish were wrapped in a tortilla contaminated with piggy fatz. as louise put it in an email to me, “It’s kind of stupid that they don’t make it a point to tell you. I don’t see the point of a tofu taco if it’s wrapped in lard. The tofu taco would have been a great option for vegetarians, but now it’s just, ‘Haha, just kidding guys. No tacos for you.'”

    sad tacos. they taste so good and vegan in the middle, but are wrapped in lard. :( :( :(

    sad tacos. they taste so good and vegan in the middle, but are wrapped in lard. πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™

    so to take something good from this situation, at least we now know kogi does have some stuff that is vegan-friendly. i will definitely return to check out their lettuce-wrapped tofu taco, as well as their tofu burrito…minus eggs, cheese, and anything else unvegan.

    for those of you vegans who aren’t phased and want to give this inventive cuisine a try…but don’t feel like queuing up and want to drink alcohol while you eat your korean/mex, kogi has taken over the kitchen at the alibi room in culver city monday-saturday from 6pm to midnite. their vegan stuff is available there as well, and if you call in advance, they say they can whip you up some extra vegan specialties.

    in fact, lex over at vegan-la has talked to the chef and even arranged a “vegan drinks” session with alcohol and loads of kogi food at the alibi on march 28th. for more info on that, check out the vegan drinks site.

    the way kogi seasoned their tofu tacos was nothing short of incredible…they truly blend flavors to create a really unique and delicious taste. i’m willing to bury the hatchet and try something that i know is vegan for sure, from the chef’s mouth.

    for up to date times and locations of the kogi trucks, and for just some all around entertainment, follow kogibbq on twitter. also check out their website for more info.

    hit up kogi when you can, and get there early to avoid the lines! i know i will be back. just don’t eat any fucking corn tortillas!! YUCK. oh, and don’t believe everything you read on vegguide or on twitter.

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19 responses to “vegan dramz!! the kogi truck: what’s vegan and what’s not.” RSS icon

  • Sorry to break it to you, but you just ate a mouthful of pork fat. The tortillas Kogi uses have manteca (lard) in them.

    That’s one reason why the BF (vegan) never eats their regular tacos. The only vegan one they have is the one wrapped in shiso leaf.

  • Yeah, and anything true you do read on Vegguide.org was probably original lifted from either this website or mine.

    That’s fucking lame about Kogi BBQ, especially the original tweet telling you flat out that you were wrong, when in fact they had actually contaminated you with vile “hints” of lard. There’s nothing that pisses me off more than people working with food who have no clue what’s in it.

    And I also agree that’s it’s utterly stupid when people serve vegetarian “seeming” tofu dishes but then screw the whole thing up by using hidden lard, eggs, animal broth, etc… What’s the point of using tofu (which most meat eaters don’t like) if you’re not going to prepare it vegan?

  • I would have thrown up πŸ™ Yuck! I know “non-vegan is non-vegan” but for me it’s one thing to have found out you’ve accidentally consumed hints of dairy or egg products (gross), but lard? Ultimate gross. I’m so sorry that this happened to you! I’m impressed that you’re even going back, actually. It would have left a really bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended).

  • ???
    “aLL the homemade corn tortiLLas are made with a touch of Manteca. The fLour tortiLLas aren’t. Hey! You can order an eggLess burrito! ^__^ (and cheeseless)”

    All TRADITIONALLY made tortillas have manteca, yes that includes tortillas de harina (flour)…

    I think it’s weird that the corn ones would have it and not the flour.

  • “Kogi” means “Meat” in Korean so I’m getting a lot of hell holding a Vegan Meetup there! But I have to say Chef Roy is very accommodating and at least has the word Vegan on his menu for the Sesame Leaf Tacos. I’ll see if he can bring some Vegan Taco shells to the Vegan Drinks meetup. There’s so much Hype behind the Kogi Truck its nice that they made some vegan food. I think the cook who talked to you didn’t mean to make the mistake and just had no clue Tortillas could contain animal products.

  • Yeah, been wanting to try the food (tofu) from the Kogi truck for awhile, but this is making me think twice. Never even occurred to me that corn tortillas would have bits of pig of them *eyes other mexican food with suspicion*

    (then again, the whole Kogi empire seems to be full of drama)

    In a lot of Chinese cookery, tofu and meat are cooked together. It may seem counter-productive, but here we are.

  • I’m glad you finally cleared up the uh, mis-communications at Kogi. The vegan drinks meetup sounds good though. Maybe I can get the BF to go.

  • I Googled “vegan tortillas Los Angeles ” and came up with your Kogi post … and a lot of recipes … but no stores or companies selling tortillas for vegans in LA. I’m sensing a substantial void in the vegan-Mexican-food universe.

  • CORRECTION: I meant to say “vegan CORN tortillas”. Tumaro’s Tortillas makes vegan flour tortillas … but corn tortillas seem to be a rare commodity.

  • I have never eaten Koren food because it always seems very sketchy like tofu cooked in beef juices etc so I was skeptical of trying these tacos. Now I don’t think I will be going here either because what’s the point of going out of your way to make something with tofu and then ignore lard? Lettuce wraps aren’t my thing no matter how delicious the filling might be πŸ™

  • Like I said on twitter, they offered to cook my tofu separately on one trip after asking if I was vegetarian. Ugh! Perhaps only Chef Roy was knowledgeable about the lard. They DO know what vegan means though, and have some vegan specials some nights. That’s disappointing, though. I enjoyed the burrito when I had it, but rather than a breakfast burrito, I wish they had beans and rice, topped with the tofu and all the delicious trimmings. I love spicy food, but I find kogi so flavorful that I don’t even need hot sauce!

  • Kay’n Dave offers Lard free Vegan mexican food options. They have a few locations and a new one opening in Culver City soon.

  • That’s a bummer finding out about the tofu tacos. I actually liked the tofu tacos the best of the taco selections. I’m not a vegetarian, but it would be a total bummer to find that out they advertised it as vegan friendly item only to get the lard in the tortilla.

  • There are tons of corn tortillas made without lard. However, lard is pretty common in beans (esp. refried) at Mexican places in LA.

    The thing that bugs me about Kogi’s vegan offerings is that they’re generally not hearty or filling at all. It wouldn’t be that hard for them to keep two sets of tortillas or whatever. The time I had a vegan (sesame leaf) “taco” from them, there was no sort of wrapping at all – it was just like a salad with some tofu dressed in a vinaigrette type thing.

    You could do a much more interesting, flavorful and hearty Korean taco with a mushroom, gochujang (or vegan kimchee), and tofu filling, with some cabbage or pickled cucumbers on top. That would be a lot more satisfying.

  • So glad I found this out. We’re having Kogi tacos at my work later this week and my bf had told me about this post. So I guess I’ll actually have a tofu salad instead of a taco. Thanks for the info! πŸ™‚

    Panda Express also has another one of those dumb tofu dishes. The tofu and eggplant dish they carry has chicken stock in it. I don’t understand why places do that. Tofu has a certain inferred meaning to it. I know too many omnis who are afraid of tofu so why not just keep ’em vegan and vegetarian friendly? I don’t get it.

  • I think you have to keep in mind that tofu is used in the asian culture as a cheap alternative to meat protein to supplement the diet, rather than used for vegetarianism. So it’s common for asian cultures to mix tofu with meat products.

  • too many exceptions.. FUCK KOGI

  • It’s pretty well covered, but if anyone still had further questions, Kogi addresses it pretty clearly here


  • Newsflash: Vegetarians did not invent tofu, the Chinese did, and then later passed it on to Kore and Japan. They’ve been cooking it up with meat long before you even knew what it was.

    Secondly, Kogi’s own blog admits to sharing grill space with meat, so any tofu that touches the griddle can’t really be considered vegan when there’s caramelized meat juices stuck all over it.

    Kogi themselves make another good point: Don’t expect vegan fare from a metal box with the word MEAT written on it.

    Go get something at RFD. I recommend the black bean nachos, which are both vegan and delicious.

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