Food Trucks, Food Carts, Not a New Idea!

In my last blog I discussed the food trucks of my early life in Australia. Later my career took me to Asia and my exposure to food trucks took a whole different path. Most people believe that Asian street food is something that should be left alone at all costs, lest you get a dose of Delhi Belly, the Taipei Trots or the Penang Poops.

Yes that can happen but if you are afraid to try street food you will miss out on some of the best food in the world. Among seasoned world travelers it seems to be understood that the more you eat from the local food trucks, the fewer problems you will have, gastrointestinal wise. Immunity I guess!

Food trucks in different parts of the world may look a little bit different than what you are used to but they still do the same thing, bring you the best of the local food at great prices. Many in the poorer countries are made of salvaged metal, wood and the occasional bit of stainless steel attached to a couple of bicycle wheels and either pulled behind a scooter or pulled by hand.

My fondest memories are of freshly made green onion pancakes with hot bean dipping sauce from a street vendor in Taipei city. These pancakes are fried on a large flatplate  on street corners. When cooked they resemble a thick, large tortilla with green onions…….they are amazingly good, when bought by the right vendor of course.

Some of the other food truck experiences highly recommended when traveling would be:

Fried Mandoo” fried dumplings in Korea

Beef noodle soupin Taiwan

Pad Thai, Green papaya salad and banana pancakes in Thailand

Churros in Spain

Fried ears of sweet corn with sweet dipping sauce in most countries in Asia and Spain.

Not all street vendors I have come across automatically get my nod of approval, some have food that is just too weird or too smelly to even contemplate. Try the carts of fried grasshoppers that roll along the street piled high with the little critters or take a few hours to chew on a duck tongue and be amazed at the fact that the flavor never goes away and neither does the tongue, even after hours of trying to chew through it! Kind of like a meaty bubble gum!

My brother in law was visiting me in Taiwan some years ago and went for a run one morning and came back about twenty minutes later with a bemused look on his face and dirt on his running shorts. His explanation ? While running he turned a corner and his body just stopped!! He couldn’t breath, no matter how hard he tried his body would not allow him to inhale and he ended up sitting on his butt by the side of the road. After a few seconds his body started acting normal again and in his words he was assailed “by the worst stench known to mankind”

The culprit? Stinky Tofu, known to the locals as Chou Dofu. This concoction has a smell that could gag an elephant, I was told that in old times the preparation entailed horse urine soaked hay and being buried for years while the flavor and smell developed. I don’t know if this is true, it could have been a Taiwanese friend pulling my leg. The other bit of local lore states that although it smells bad it tastes great. Not True!! It tastes just like it smells. I know, I tried it and still have nightmares about my body shutting down involuntarily while my brain dealt with how stupid I was.

So as the food truck trend in the US gains momentum I applaud and will  sample the delicious mix of interesting foods that so lend themselves to this experience. Bring it on…..

Food Trucks – A Growing Trend

Food Trucks are becoming the “In Thing” in many major cities, with the range and types of food available matching that of many restaurants world wide. Combine the choice of food with the ease of purchase and nominal price and you have a growing trend that should be around for many years to come.

Food trucks have been around for ever but were normally confined to the old favorites like hot dogs, burgers, and of course ice cream. Now, you can name any country in the world and there is probably a food truck selling one or more of their hand held delicacies from a small window in some city near you.

I still remember my first food truck experience.  It was three o’clock in the morning and I was feeling a bit under the weather. It probably had something to do with the large amount of beer, wine and spirits that I had consumed over the last several hours at a downtown pub in the heart of Adelaide, Australia.

I was still in my late teens and at the time was prone to do these sorts of things along with all of my friends. Luckily I have grown out of this habit.

There is a tradition in many Australian cities near the main drinking areas to have a food truck that specializes in pot pies, yep, pot pies!! Now the pot pies themselves are to be found in every deli and lunch place in the country, what makes these “pie carts” as they are called, different is what they add to the pot pies. Most of the pies are beef and gravy cocooned in a light fluffy pastry. When ordered from a pie cart they put in a bowl and cover it in green pea soup with a dollop of ketchup added to the top.

Are you still with me! Too much to drink, feeling woozy and looking at a meat pie covered in green pea soup and ketchup. This is a kill or cure hangover remedy!! Well actually it is a cure, cure remedy. If you eat it and manage to keep it down for more than ten minutes, you will feel better just because of the food in your stomach. If you eat it and lose it, you will feel better just because you have purged the booze from your system. Win, win.

If you happen to be in Adelaide, Australia late at night try The Pie Cart right outside the casino in the old railway station. You don’t have to have the pea soup! If you are in Sydney try Harry’s Café de Wheels in the theater district right next to China Town, both are worth a try.

More on food trucks and street food in my next blog.

Rod