Since the Cronut and Ramen Burger captured our culinary imaginations with mash-up food creations, many of us have dreamt up our own delicious hybrids of various munchies. As an armchair chef, I created (in my head) something called kimcheese. Yep, it’s kimchi flavored cheese, sort of like a pepper jack. However, I discovered recently that chef Ernesto Uchimura of Plan Check beat me to it and conjured up his own kimcheese — gruyere with wine and dried kimchi. He adds it to his K-BBQ Burger. Drat! Foiled again!
So what exactly does it take to come up with a successful mash-up dish that’s both original and delicious? This is what I asked chef Erwin Tjahyadi of the Komodo gourmet food truck and restaurants, who recently introduced the Phorrito, all the flavors of pho wrapped in a tortilla sans soup. It’s thin slices of Angus beef, rice noodles, Thai basil, onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeno, hoisin, and Sriracha along with pho seasonings.
“Like most things at Komodo, the Phorrito was an accidental surprise,” Erwin says.
Originally, Komodo’s partners were urging him to make a soup special for the colder seasons. Sick of the nagging, the chef played a joke on them during a managers’ meeting. He told them he’d serve his version of pho and brought out the Phorrito.
“Once we all agreed that this had to be a special, we started working on getting the right balance of flavors and components,” Erwin says. “Balance is probably the biggest challenge.”
Not everyone has been won over. There has been controversy about the level of hoisin and jalapeno in the Phorrito. Overall, though, feedback has been positive.
“I think the biggest surprise out of all of this was attracting a lot of new faces at the restaurant and most especially curious Vietnamese-American foodies,” Erwin says. “We all thought that this would generate a little bit of an outrage from the community and we would receive a lot of backlash. On the contrary, it’s been very well received by our Vietnamese-American customers. Their approval means a lot. It’s very validating that we’re representing their cultural heritage in a positive way.”
So what started out as a prank has become a big attention-getter.
“We never intended to create a talked-about dish or the next Ramen Burger,” Erwin says. “Vietnamese food is one of our favorite cuisines and since our business is all about introducing different Asian flavors into the mainstream, the Phorrito was a terrific product for it. It’s fun to see new foodies learn about pho.”
The Phorrito is an occasional special. Call ahead for availability. All pho one and one pho all.
Komodo (Pico), 8809 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-246-5153
Komodo (Venice), 235 Main St., Venice, 310-255-6742