Falling for food trucks

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

‘Hey! What would you like today?’

Standing at the front of the line, you’re ready to order. Your friends are behind you – one is holding a plate of Italian grilled octopus, the other a box of Thai chicken and rice. You opt for sizzling Korean soy noodles and veg. The owner promptly preps the dish – boiling, tossing, frying and drizzling right in front of you. The food goes from chopping board, to hot plate, to a steaming bowl of goodness in your hands in a matter of minutes. Your lunch is right here, and man it looks good.

In the past 10 years, the culinary landscape of cities all over the world has been transformed by a new kind of street food purveyor: the gourmet food truck. Food trucks first rolled onto the scene in the US around the time of the last global financial crisis. (Many argue that the first of its form was renowned BBQ food truck Kogi, based in Los Angeles.) It was an era when chefs were being laid off from traditional bricks-and-morter restaurants, and, with no job but a lot of talent and ambition, decided to take matters into their own hands. Combined with a growing number of festivals and a trend for pop-up attractions, the market was ripe for entrepreneurial cooks to make their mark in nomadic kitchens.

Today food trucks can be found on city streets from London to La Paz. With their gourmet plates served at street prices – and with no booking or dress code required – they cater to foodies who are more interested in taste than the formal trappings of restaurant life. Fun, local and affordable, they are also an easy way for urbanites to sample delicacies from the other side of the world and for visitors to get involved in a city’s food scene.

For Lonely Planet’s latest book, the team persuaded some of the world’s most creative food truck chefs to share their recipes so that you can make them at home and we’ll be sharing a few with you over the next couple of days. The dishes feature everything from classics and family recipes to fusion concoctions inspired by travel experiences. Something they all have in common: they are very popular with a crowd.

So what are you waiting for? Go on, truck in!

Christina Webb

Lebanese Msakhan

SOUFRA, BEIRUT, LEBANON


© VIVIEN KILLILEA BEST

The cooks behind Soufra haven’t had it easy. As women from the Burj el- Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, they’ve faced grinding poverty and legal restrictions on education and job prospects since the camp’s founding in 1948.

Founded by Mariam Chaar, Soufra has a weekly stand at a farmers market, where the food truck sells its signature dishes, including a transcendent version of the Palestinian national dish msakhan. Chaar started Soufra, which means ‘table of plenty’, in 2013 to create opportunities for members of her community most in need of jobs; since then over 40 women have benefitted from the programme and in 2017, Susan Sarandon produced a documentary about Chaar’s uphill battle to purchase and outfit the truck.

Fuelled by Palestinian delicacies, the women’s energy seems boundless.

How to make it

SERVES 4 (AS A SNACK)

Ingredients

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1 large onion, sliced

25g (1oz) sumac

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp ground cloves

Pinch of saffron

¼ tsp allspice

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

200g (7oz) roasted chicken leg

Meat, skin discarded, meat

Stripped from the bone and shredded

25g (1oz) almonds or pine nuts, toasted

Markouk bread or 4 flour tortillas



© VIVIEN KILLILEA BEST

Method

1. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a large pan over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
3. Add the spices, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
4. Add the shredded chicken and nuts and stir well.
5. Allow the chicken mixture to cool. Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF).
6. Meanwhile, cut the markouk or tortilla bread into 8 large triangles.
7. Put a spoonful of the chicken mixture in the middle of each triangle, then fold two sides in and roll it up into a cigar shape.
8. Brush the remaining oil all over the msakhan and arrange on baking sheets.
9. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crispy. Serve immediately.


Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2019


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