9 Trendsetting Food Trucks
August 7, 2014
The hottest new restaurant in town just drove past you! By Kate Whitehead
Published on Aug 7, 2014
The food truck phenomenon took off in the U.S. when out-of-work chefs set up restaurants on wheels. These creative cooks, following in the tire tracks of the ice cream vans that paved the way starting with their original incarnation as 19th-century horse-drawn wagons, dole out easy-to-eat, tasty—and often gourmet—fare at, thanks to the low overhead, reasonable prices. The appetite for these mobile munchies just keeps growing, spilling past borders and taking the Asia-Pacific region by storm.
Melbourne prides itself on being a foodie city, so it’s no surprise the place was quick to embrace the food-truck craze. The first in the city was Beatbox Kitchen (meal for two A$25) in 2009 and five years on it’s still serving classic burgers and fries, with a few variations like the veg-friendly Shroom Burger. It was such as hit that the owner followed it up with a taco truck and before long there were dozens of trucks milling about Melbourne. Soon Chingon joined the scene with its own brand of Mexican favorites, creating competition. Luckily Melbourne has enough hungry customers to keep everyone in business.
Try to catch White Guy Cooks Thai (meal for two A$25), a flashy ride that hit the streets in 2012. Simon Williams is the “white guy,” but his menu isn’t strictly Thai. Alongside the red and green curries and Thai-style corn fritters, he serves up Vietnamese rolls, teriyaki salmon and Korean beef bulgogi.
White Guy Cooks Thai
Today there are about 50 trucks in Melbourne, targeting mostly the inner suburbs, and it’s easy to find them thanks to Facebook and Twitter. In fact, it safely can be said that without social networking sites this food fad could never have grown so big so fast. Get the Where The Truck (app.wherethetruck.at) app for a fairly comprehensive directory of Australia’s food trucks.
Japan’s food trucks are smaller than those in the U.S. and Australia and zoning regulations mean that public open space can’t be used for kitchens. A few quick-thinking entrepreneurs have found a loophole though and have set up companies that match trucks with building owners. In Tokyo, trucks often congregate in one area at lunch, giving office workers plenty of choice and creating a buzz downtown.
Look out for: Tofu Tofu (meal for two US$20) for a fun vegetarian bite. The brightly painted VW minivan works magic with tofu, packing in plenty of flavor. But if you’re craving some meat, then Rodeio Grill (meal for two US$30) should hit the spot.
Street-side snacks served from mobile kitchens are nothing new in Malaysia, but last year Kuala Lumpur welcomed a new breed of vehicle: the super-shiny modern food truck sporting all the bells and whistles. Flaming Wheels (meal for two US$30) belongs to a Malaysian restaurateur who was inspired by the U.S. food trucks and invested a good chunk of capital into a very flash looking vehicle—think Hot Wheels. The menu has plenty of local and international bistro favorites, such as chili beef nachos, goulash and Singapore noodles. It’s made such a splash in Kuala Lumpur that the Malaysian prime minister even stopped by for a bite in January.
Flaming Wheels cooks up hot wings
Manila caught the food truck bug so thoroughly that in December 2012 it created the country’s first food truck market in downtown Makati, offering a new breed of alfresco dining, quite unlike the illegal street vendors for whom mobility was all about being able to make a quick exit when the cops showed up. The original market closed but a new edition is in the works. Check the Food Truck Park Facebook site for news on its next location.
Shawarma Bros (meal for two about US$10), however, endured. It opened in December 2012 and was so popular it sold out of shawarma for the first three days and went on to pick up an award for best food truck.Shawarma Bros is still going strong and recently opened a brick and mortar restaurant on Raymundo Avenue, Pasig City.
In Bangkok, most mobile food carts are attached to motorcycles. This makes good sense given the city’s notoriously terrible traffic, but it hasn’t stopped confirmed foodies doing their bit to boost the legit food truck movement.
First came a couple of Korean Taco trucks called Kenji. They made a splash and lasted a year before disappearing from the scene. Demonstrating more enduring success has been Bangkok’s first gourmet burger truck, Daniel Thaiger (burgers for two Bt280). Opened last September, it’s the brainchild of Californian Mark Falcioni and his Thai wife, Honey. Named after their young son, this Sukhumvit-area pitstop has been a huge hit; its “Mr. Steve” burger uses organic beef.
Where’s the beef? At Daniel Thaiger
The prize for one of the quirkiest trucks goes to Pizza-Aroy (pizza for two Bt500) for its mobile wood-fired pizza oven. It’s actually a utility pick-up truck, and the oven complete with chimney is mounted on the back. It serves piping hot pies on the move—or will tool over to your house for a portable pizza party.