Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

The Korean-American chef behind the groundbreaking Los Angeles taco truck talks to Food and Wine about the best ways to cook with his new line of sauces. 

Elisabeth Sherman
January 09, 2018

Roy Choi is on the move. He’s still running Kogi, his legendary Korean taco food truck. He also just opened POT Pizza Joint in Los Angeles, which serves a kimchi pie. Oh, and he’s got a concept restaurant opening at Park MGM in the fall of 2018. With a growing food empire stretching across state lines, Choi might seem hard to nail down, but he’s hoping to change that: This month he released three sauces, a salt rub (Choi's favorite product in the bunch, although he stipulates that choosing among them is like picking between your children) and a spicy ramen kit with Williams-Sonoma.

“Really the dream and the philosophy of this collection was to get people to cook more,” he tells Food and Wine. “That’s what I’m all about.”

The collection includes the Garlic Everything Sauce, the Toasted Sesame Soy Splash Sauce, and the Sweet N’ Spicy Korean BBQ Sauce. Choi’s goal with the line was to make sure that the sauces were easy-to-use and versatile.

“I literally want people to open [the jar], pour [the sauce], and then turn on a Crock-Pot or deglaze a pan,” he explains. “You don’t really need to season with these sauces, which is crazy.”

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Choi calls the Garlic Everything Sauce an “all-purpose” dressing that can be mixed into burgers or meatloaf and used as a marinade or dressing for “romaine and butter lettuce and sesame leaf and cilantro and mint.”

“You could even make a milkshake out it,” he jokes.

The Splash Sauce, on the other hand, is more akin to a dipping sauce, similar to a “splash of soy, or a squirt of sriracha.” Choi prefers to use it on simpler meals, like a bowl of rice with a fried egg on top, or alongside dumplings. Meanwhile, the BBQ sauce will make you “the best adobo you could have.”

His ramen kit—which Choi says was the most challenging product to create in the line—is even more personal to the chef.

“I tried to represent how a lot of us grew up [eating] instant ramen. For us as Korean immigrants, we grew up around it our whole lives,” he says. “That’s all we ate in college, all my friends in the neighborhood. All you’re eating is ramen all day, every day. That’s really where the inspiration came from.”

Choi’s food is as approachable as it is creative and this collaboration is no exception. The line was designed with the experienced home cook in mind, yes, but it’s also tailored toward people stepping into the kitchen for the first time, and who might be intimidated by the prospect of cooking up complex meals.

“I wanted to make it very approachable and very user-friendly. I do come from the streets, and it’s not just restaurant people that I feed,” Choi says. “I wanted to encourage people to cook, without making a sacrifice. All they have to do is buy chicken. And they probably have water at home.”

He hopes that his sauce is used in much the same way people used sriracha at the height of its popularity, in that people were creating new dishes just to use the sauce, and that whether you’re a seasoned home cook or just starting out, you “come out with a product that is restaurant worthy.”

Although Choi is in the beginning stages of expanding his restaurants across the country, he admits that to try his food, you have to be in Los Angeles. These products make him much more accessible. With the debut of this Williams-Sonoma collaboration, he hopes that the flavors, textures and meals he’s passionate about will be available to more people, in more places, who are eager to try his food.

“I’m on social media a lot, I’m out on the streets, and I’m talking [to people] all the time. People love the flavors, and they write to me and say, ‘Yo man, I wish I could have your food out here with me,’” he says. “With these sauces, they can be anywhere, in all fifty states, you can actually feel what it’s like to eat the food in L.A.”