Well, here's my latest recipe that works very well. It's not King Taco, but it's comparable to other taquerias.
In a medium skillet, dry roast the japanese chiles on medium heat. Turn off heat once a few black spots appear. Add water to skillet (be generous) and boil on high heat for 3-5 minutes.
Place japanese chiles in blender along with all other ingredients and blend. Add water to thin the sauce out. Place blended contents to medium skillet (or small pot) and boil on medium heat. The sauce will cook and will eventually thicken to a better consistency (maybe 15-20 minutes or so). Stir often. Once sauce in thickened, place in container and place in refrigerator for an hour or so before serving. Add salt to taste.
Queso fresco or queso cotija. I personally like the queso cotija more because it has a sharper flavor. Throw that stuff on anything and it's really good (floutas with queso cotija, crema mexicana, and jalapenos ... mmm).
Anyway, I made a different batch of red salsa that came out really good. My tacos came out really good too. Here's how I made it.
Ingredients for tacos:
3 lbs. Boneless beef chuck steak, chopped
Pre-heat skillet at medium heat and melt lard. Season tacos with garlic powder, pepper, carne asada seasoning, seasoning salt. Grill at medium heat. While grilling, squeeze fresh lemon juice into tacos (very important!). Grill until taco meat becomes brown and well-done. Remove taco meat from skillet and use taco juices/lard to heat your tortillas in. Before you put tortillas in skillet, wet with water. Heat on both sides until water dries. Do not overcook. It should take only about 20 seconds on each side. Lard and taco juices should stick to corn torillas. Use 2 tortillas for one taco. Garnish with onion & cilantro. Add salsa and lemon juice (optional).
Ingredients for salsa:
1 handful of Dried chile japones (japanse chiles), de-stemmed
Directions for salsa:
Roast chiles japones on dry skillet and boil in water for 10 minutes. On new skill, heat and add oil, garlic, onions, and tomatillos. Grill until slighly caramelized (do not burn). add everything to blender with lemon juice and seasoning salt and puree.
This salsa is not a dark blood-red salsa because of the the tomatillo. In fact, it is the same red-orangey color as king taco chile. It does not taste like king taco, but it is the best salsa I've made so far.
Cloves are very strong, no doubt, but thats why I think I taste it. Don't put a lot, just a little. As it settles, the clove flavor gets stronger and stronger, so be careful.
Today I tried making a salsa centered around a seasoning called "pico de gallo". It's just a chili powder with salt and limon. People use it to season fruits like cucumbers (pepinos!), watermelon, lemon, pickles, pineapple, etc. Similar to Lucas chili powder, but not sweet. I used toasted garlic, dried chiles de arbol, ground cloves, "pico de gallo", lemon juice, chile de arbol molida (arbol chili powder), a pinch of seasoning salt, and some sugar. It's the closest I've come to King Taco chile. I think I'm right about the cloves and sugar, that's what gave it that unique "kick". I'd say I'm about 80% of the way there! Maybe next time I'll try brown sugar instead of regular sugar. Also, I want to try the toasted pumpkin seeds!
I just had some King Taco today and I swear I tasted a crapload of cloves in it, but it was neutralized with a sweet flavor that balanced it out. I tried a new batch of my own salsa with ground cloves,some sugar, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of allspice and it came out pretty good, but still not King Taco. It was closer though. It definitely rivals other Taquerias now. In fact this salsa (dried arbol, garlic, lemon, seasoning salt, and said spices) reminded me of an old Taco cart in East LA-Boyle Heights area I used to go to all the time. That salsa roja was loaded with crushed red pepper.
Hey everyone! There's your answer! Don't make it, just buy it!
Getting back to the salsa recipe, today I made a salsa and it's the closest I've come to making a decent salsa roja (did not taste like King Taco, but it tastes like "Tacos Mexico", a decent taco restaurant near where I live. Their $0.55 taco Tuesdays makes $5 go a long way (8 or 9 tacos, which is my sweet spot, LOL). Their salsa tastes close to chipotle in adobo sauce (King Taco only has a hint of it, but not much).
Anyway, you guys wouldn't believe the secret to my salsa that took it to the next level. Instead of using salt, I used something called "Adobo Mix" seasoning. Before you say "what the hell is that?", let me tell you that it's basically just seasoning salt. In fact, it tastes very similar to Lawry's seasoning salt (almost no difference really), something we all have in our homes. Just be sure not to use too much. Here's a rough sketch of the recipe I made (it made about 1/3rd of a cup of salsa):
First, take about a teaspoon of Manteca (or lard). I have the Farmer John brand (not that it matters, lard is lard). Put it in a small skillet and heat at medium temperature. Throw 1 raw small garlic (peeled and chopped), 4 small dehydrated chiles de arbol, and a little bit of chopped onion (I put about 3 times the mass of a garlic, not much) into the heated skillet. Let the garlic, onion, and chiles cook in the manteca until grilled (not long, maybe 3-5 minutes?) Do not totally blacken the garlic, onions and chiles (black spots are good though)!
Next, put some water in the skillet to cover the garlic and onions. I put about 3/4ths-1 cup of water. Don't worry about putting too much since it evaporates quickly. The water will serve as a base to the chile. Turn the heat to high and let the garlic, chiles, and onions boil. As it's boiling, add chile powder (I used half Cayenne Pepper and half Chile California Molido. Feel free to experiment with other chile powders such as parika, etc. I think any red chili powder should do.) Add chili powder until the water turns red and gets slightly thick. I think I put about 3 tablespoons of chili powder. Add some seasoning salt and squeeze some lemon into the boiling skillet (I love lemon so I put about 1/4th of a squeezed lemon). Also, add about one-eighth of a chipotle chili with a little bit of adobo sauce (the flavor is overpowering, so don't put too much!!). If the contents in the skillet get too thick because the water evaporated, add more water. Eventually it will gain the consistency of the salsa roja we all love. You'll know when to stop boiling (maybe 5-7 minutes or so?).
Next, pour the contents into a blender and blend! If it needs more salt, add more seasoning salt. Add lemon for taste too!
Referigerate and let the chili settle before served.
LOL, we'll never get a recipe exactly like King Taco. If we were able to somehow, all these Mexican taco places in LA would just copy it. The best you can do is create a recipe yourself that tastes good.
An old friend of mine makes some bomb salsa and he told me his secret was grapes (not green) and beer. I would've never guessed because it was pretty damn good and I wouldn't exactly describe it as sweet. He said he didn't use a lot of grapes, just enough to counter the bitterness of the onions/chiles. I don't know the exact recipe, but it was a red salsa. I lost contact with him a long time ago.
Here's an idea -- every time I go to a taqueria, the smell that draws me in is the salsa roja and the manteca. Try using manteca instead of oil in your salsa. King Taco puts manteca in everything else, why not their salsa? LOL ...
There's also this place called Tacos Mexico, which is more or less a poor man's King Taco. I swear I can taste beer in their salsa, but not much. I don't taste beer in King Taco salsa roja, but there may be some. Look up some recipes on salsa borracha and try to incorporate that into your own salsa.
Also, I think King Taco salsa roja is chili/spice powder based. It is very thick compared to other salsa rojas in East LA taquerias. The main reason I don't think we'll ever figure out the salsa recipe is because I think the secret is in the herbs and spices--is very easy to conceal what's in blended spices. For all we know the secret could be Indian spices, Jamaican spices, or other Carribean spices that have that thick, rich flavor that adds to the intensity.