Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Austin Food & Wine Fest: Rocking fusion tacos at home

Addie Broyles

The 3rd annual Austin Food & Wine Festival starts later this week, and in today’s food section, we tackle how to make your own non-traditional tacos, which are the highlight of Saturday night’s big Rock Your Taco event in Republic Square Park.

(“Taste” passes for the daytime parts of the festival on Saturday and Sunday cost $250, and VIP Savor passes cost $850. Taste badgeholders can buy add-on tickets to Friday’s Taste of Texas or Saturday’s Rock Your Taco events. Tickets and info at

In the story, I chat with “Global Kitchen” author David Joachim about why tacos have always been one of the ultimate fusion foods and why the search for “taco authenticity” is often misguided.

For the video at the top of this post, Statesman multimedia producer Reshma Kirpalani caught up with Uchi chefs Tyson Cole and Philip Speer, who together have come up with back-to-back taco creations that have won both Rock Your Taco contests, to find out what goes into their creative process.

Hint: It starts with a text message.

Here is one of the recipes that ran with the story today. The other, Korean-style beef tacos, is at the end of this story on

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

These days, it seems like anything can be wrapped in a tortilla. Why not spicy, sweet, salty Kung Pao chicken? If you can get a hold of some Sichuan peppercorns, toss a tablespoon or two into the wok along with the chicken for a tongue-numbing flavor buzz. That will give the tacos the flavor of the original dish made in China’s Sichuan province.

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

3 Tbsp. lower-sodium soy sauce, divided 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, divided

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided

1 1/2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

2 tsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

3/4 cup diagonally sliced celery (about 2 stalks)

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/3 cup sliced green onions

1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced

4 lime wedges

Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce to bag; seal. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 1/4 cup cornstarch in a shallow dish. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt. Add chicken to cornstarch in dish and toss chicken to thoroughly coat. Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of coated chicken; sauté 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and coated chicken.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, honey, and next 3 ingredients (through sambal oelek) in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Microwave at high for 1 1/2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring twice. Stir in garlic. Combine soy sauce mixture, chicken, peanuts and celery; toss to coat chicken.

Toast tortillas under broiler or on a griddle until lightly blistered, turning frequently. Place two tortillas on each of four plates; divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Top each taco with green onions and bell pepper strips; serve with lime wedges. Serves 4.

— From “Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy” by David Joachim (Oxmoor House, $29.95)