In Texas, there is no dining experience more quintessential than dipping a freshly fried chip into a bowl of melty, gooey, cheesy queso. More Tex than Mex, this neon-orange wonder connects with traditional Korean flavors and techniques at Chicken Moto, Richardson’s newest fried chicken joint.
Here, plates of crispy, crunchy fried chicken tossed in sticky sweet or spicy sauce are served alongside traditional Southern sides like potato salad and slaw, all spiked with plenty of Korean influence. But the menu’s most interesting dish, kimchi queso, combines the national food of Texas with the delightfully fermented funky condiment that Koreans consume more than 1.5 million tons of each and every year.
To make the ten cases of kimchi that her restaurants need each week, Chef Sandy Bussey enlists help from her family. “We make my grandmother’s kimchi recipe, which was passed down to my aunt before she passed,” Bussey tells Eater. “There is a lot of finesse that goes into making kimchi because there are so many variables — are we dealing with summer cabbage or winter cabbage? Are the apples or Asian pears that the recipe requires in season?”
As far as the cheese for the kimchi queso is concerned, Bussey didn’t get fancy, and for good reason. “I really do think, when you’re talking about queso, I really do feel that the best cheese is Velveeta,” she says. “With other cheeses, I also feel like it gets grainy at times. Velveeta stays homogenized, you’re not risking any breakage or anything, and it just has a great consistency that sticks around.”
Though there are certainly some exceptions, most Texans would likely agree with Bussey’s assessment. The no-frills dip is assembled in a restaurant kitchen much as it would be at home, minus the cans of Rotel tomatoes or pico de gallo. Instead, two types of kimchi are required. The first is what Bussey calls a “kimchi salsa,” where the condiment is prepared fresh, then blended with gochujang and lime juice, which add heat and brightness to the un-fermented condiment.
The second kimchi used in the dish is aged much longer, maybe three to four months, and is caramelized in a pan to further intensify its richly funky flavor. Milk is added to the pan and warmed, then cubes of Velveeta are stirred in until perfectly melted. The kimchi is poured into a bowl that resembles those used to serve banchan, or small Korean side dishes. A scoop of chopped kimchi gilds the lily.
Instead of the traditional corn tortilla chip, the queso at Chicken Moto is served with freshly fried taro chips. Or it can serve as a dipping sauce for fries tossed in curry ranch seasoning. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, pair this dip with a basket of crispy, salty chicken skins sprinkled generously with a blend of Korean spices.
The resulting dip resembles its inspiration in both texture and appearance and boasts a decidedly different flavor profile, but it’s a pairing that totally makes sense. “I think it’s because you kind of get that same spicy profile and richness with fresh touches,” says Bussey. “Like Tex-Mex, Korean has kind of a building heat. It’s spicy, but it doesn’t really get hot until ten bites in. It’s not in your face.”
It’s also a pairing that makes sense for Dallas-Fort Worth, home to one of the country’s largest populations of Korean immigrants, including Sandy Bussey’s parents. Growing up, Bussey ate traditional Korean cuisine for every meal, including special occasion dinners out at restaurants. “My parents literally live off Korean food, and that’s a very typical thing for Korean families to do,” she says. “The only cuisine that my parents, and a lot of other Koreans parents, I think, enjoy going out to eat is Tex-Mex, because you get that same kind of spicy profile.”