Review: Kokio Republic food truck, San Francisco Bay area
South Koreans took the States’ beloved Southern fried chicken and made it into something even better: Korean fried chicken. This is cultural appropriation — aka fusion — at it finest.
Thanks to Kokio Republic, I don’t have to drive two-plus hours to San Jose or fly to Los Angeles for an authentic Korean fried chicken fix.
My Dear Husband and I found Kokio’s staked-out spot at an Off the Grid food truck gathering at Marin Country Mart shopping center in Larkspur, Calif. We stuffed ourselves with Kokio’s take on Korean fried chicken before driving to Point Reyes — epicenter of the 1906 megaquake that leveled San Francisco — to try to hike it off.
As a chicken truck, it should be no surprise that 꼬끼오 kokio is Korean onomatopoeia, equivalent to cock-a-doodle-doo in English. (Another such rendition of an animal noise is 멍멍 mung-mung, like English’s ruff-ruff or bow-wow.) This food truck calls its cuisine “crispy, finger licking, addictive fried chicken.” The three variations offered during our visit were:
- Plain with honey mustard dipping sauce.
- Soy garlic.
- Sweet and spicy.
I have to give Kokio Republic beaucoup hospitality points for offering plastic gloves so you don’t have to lick your fingers if you don’t want to. It’s the first fried chicken joint I’ve visited outside of Korea that took care of customer’s fingers with this much care.
We ordered a 15-piece chicken plate with all three flavors. The current menu has a 12-piece plate with one or two flavors.
On our plate, two of the flavors — plain and soy garlic — were approachable for those leery of spicy foods. The plain recipe goes to the core of Korean fried chicken: double-frying and thin breading. Kokio Republic’s creation has a skin texture that is light and crispy.
The soy garlic flavor had a pleasant garlic bite and was not too salty. Yet, the sauce also had a little sweetness.
For the sweet-and-spicy flavor, Kokio Republic seeks to distinguish itself with a sweet 고추장 gochujang sauce, made from spicy red chilis and a rice or wheat paste. Kokio Republic’s sauce reminded me a lot 닭갈비 dakgalbi, a sweet, spicy grilled chicken dish. Though the rolling restaurant lightly slathered the fried chicken with it, the sauce did not make the crust soggy.
Keep in mind that your order will take a while. Ours arrived at the window after 35 minutes, which is a long time for a food truck order.
I ordered a side of tofu balls, which have in them shiitake mushroom and diced bell pepper. This dish is proof that anything deep fried can be tasty.
I had to pass on the kimchi balls, because they were made with bacon. Also, the menu said the kimchi could include shellfish. Shrimp paste is a common ingredient in traditional red pepper cabbage kimchi, called 배추김치 baechu kimchi.
Kokio Republic can be found at a number of Off the Grid sites, including Treasure Island Flea Market, Civic Center, and U.N. Plaza. The truck stopped frequenting Larkspur in March. You stalk the truck virtually on Twitter or Facebook.
San Francisco, Calif.