Food & Drink
Tiger Pop: Sriracha Sauce Rescues This Korean Fusion Cuisine
Published: June 12, 2013
Tiger Pop Korean Roll N Go is located between a Starbucks and a McDonald’s in a mini-strip on 1604 at Bulverde; this should tell you most of what you need to know. In case it doesn’t, keep reading.
San Antonio has welcomed Korean restaurants ever since veterans began coming back from wars across the Pacific. Though we can’t claim a Koreatown in the manner of L.A. or New York, we have at the very least been decently exposed to the cuisine. Lately, though perhaps less enduringly, the Korean food truck has also made fleeting appearances — in the process introducing us to the baroque excesses of hybrid tacos and kimchee fries.
Tiger Pop is a bright and squeaky-clean place (even the bathrooms are spotless). There is a minimum of knee-jerk Oriental trappings, and it appears, at first glance, that efficiency is of more concern than cuisine: the menu promises Korean/American/Mexican fusion cuisine. To bolster the claim, there are some tacos, burritos, and sandwiches, and they feature the house specialties: GochuGogi (spicy pork), Kogi (a steak bulgogi), and Asiana (a uniquely crisp tempura chicken breast).
When I say crisp, I mean shatteringly so; the sandwich with Asiana is, as a result, a startling textural experience. Ordered spicy, it arrived fairly bland, though moist within, enlivened only by a pickle slice and the Sriracha sauce you will want to have retrieved from a serving counter in anticipation.
Regardless, that coating does need to be experienced. Sriracha again to the rescue with the Kimpop — Korean fusion rice rolls. In what is typical Korean fashion, and unlike the Japanese sushi tradition, the non-rice ingredients are usually cooked. I ordered the Kogi, composed of sliced steak, cucumber, sweet pickle, and sautéed carrots (brown rice is a $.99 extra option). The rolls were attractive enough but their flavor bored me. Fortunately, almost anything is good with Sriracha on it.
For a closer-to-slow-food Korean experience, I suggest taking a look at the bowls. The GochuGogi bowl, served over rice and wreathed with a fresh and snappy salad, is no bibimbap, but the seasoned ground pork is truly sufficiently spicy, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and there’s almost enough of it to balance out the supplemental ingredients; here, I didn’t add Sriracha. The classic yaki mandu (they’re shaped like the pot stickers we all know and love), here called just mandu dumplings, are so pristine, however, that the famous sauce (everyone assumes it’s Asian-made, but California is Sriracha’s source) is all but obligatory. Pork? Chicken? It’s not as though the filling asserts itself. Sometimes a hint of grease is a very good thing.
There was at least one other assertive item on the menu, the classic Korean kimchee, a $.99 option. There were pepper flakes, the taste was suitably vinegary, and the cabbage was close to crisp. But you normally get more nuanced kimchees in the routine panchans at traditional Korean restaurants, or at any of the Korean grocery stores along Rittiman. At the other end of the spectrum, one can get an American cookie or brownie for dessert. Or Hello Kitty Cracker Sticks. No, I didn’t try them.
3830 N Bulverde
Best Bets The bowls with spicy pork or crisp(y) chicken
Hours 11am-9pm. Mon-Sat
The Skinny A semi-fast food concept featuring quasi-Korean cuisine with some nods to Mexican and American. It’s all very fresh and mostly a little bland — with exceptions.