Author Archives: steve

Bian Dang Truck (Taiwanese)

Bian Dang Food Truck

Food Truck: Bian Dang Taiwanese Food

Sighting: 53rd between Park and Lex

Country: Taiwan

The first food truck I knew I had to review was the Bian Dang Food Truck. They’ve been around for a while (they used to be called NYC Cravings) and I’ve been a fan for a while.

They specialize in Taiwanese food. Now a lot of you might assume this is “Chinese food”, but as I like to tell people, Taiwanese food is to Chinese food as Mexican food is to Spanish food. They may speak the same language in both countries, but each has a culinary tradition that’s worlds apart.

The word “bian dang” roughly translates to “lunch box”. Back in Taiwan’s history when rail travel could be a full day affair, they’d sell “tie lu bian dang” at train stations and on trains. It usually consisted of a fried pork chop, some braised meat and sauce, some pickled vegetables, some stir-fried vegetables, an egg, and rice.two pork chops

For my money, this is one of the perfect lunches of the world. The flavors and textures all balance each other out. There are few tastes better than braised meat and sauce over rice, and with the juice from the pork chop seeping into the rice you’ll enjoy one of nature’s perfect flavor combinations. Add to that the savoriness and chewiness of the pork chop, the sourness and pop of the picked vegetables, the subtle sweetness and crunch of the vegetables, and you have a full meal that all fits within one convenient plastic container.

pork chop rice, egg, pickled vegetablesThe Bian Dang truck replicates this classic lunch box pretty accurately. The first thing I’ll say is that the portions are generous. If you order the pork chop over rice, you’ll get two full pork chops, and a generous helping of rice and the other ingredients.

The dish can be tricky to eat subtly at a desk in a shared workspace. First of all, there’s an awesome aroma when you open your lunch box which you can enjoy but you’ll need to make sure your co-workers do too. And if you get the pork chop, you will need to pick it up with your fingers and do your best Cujo impression if you want to get every last bit of meat out. Be sure to have some floss handy as well. On the other hand, if you order the chicken, the braised pork, or the fishcakes, you’ll be able to eat those pretty quietly.

As for the flavor, while I can’t say it’s the absolute best pork chop over rice I’ve had in my life, it’s certainly very satisfying. The meat is well-cooked and tender, The rice, sauce, and pickled vegetables are kind of piled on and tend to mix together; it’s something I don’t mind as I’d be doing that anyway but if you’re picky about the presentation of your food this might be off-putting if you’re not expecting it.

Something that wasn’t on the menu but available as a special when I went back a few days later was the braised pork belly. I went back the very next day to get it. As with their other lunch boxes this came with vegetables (some Napa cabbage in this case) and rice. Here’s what it looked like up.

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Need a closer look? Here you go:

pork belly over rice

oink oink

Yes, those are big honking pieces of pork fat. Perhaps off-putting, even repulsive to the Western palate, but for someone from Taiwan it’s one of the most sublime experiences on earth. These guys didn’t disappoint. They made it juicy, tender, and perfectly seasoned, perfect to eat with a big steaming bowl of white rice. I always used to avoid these because of, oh, things like arteries and heart disease. But my wife (who’s from Taiwan) assures me that these are good for you, so who am I to argue with her.

Incidentally, if you visit the National Taiwan Museum, you’ll see that one of their national treasures is an artifact from the Ching Dynasty–a piece of rock that looks exactly like a piece of pork fat. It’s to Chinese culture as the Mona Lisa is to French culture. And now you know.

Both times I got my food in under a minute, packed securely in a brown paper bag. The young guys in the truck couldn’t have been friendlier.

5 stars out of 5. I will be back.

Price I paid: $7 for the pork chop over rice, more for the pork belly. $1 for the tea egg.

Line: short

Portion Size: large

Tricks for fast ordering: memorize the menu and be prepared to order quickly. You’ll likely want to choose one main dish, a tea egg and a free high five.

What to order if you’re a newbie: You’ll probably want one of the “pork chop over rice” or the “chicken leg over rice”, two quintessential lunch boxes in Taiwan.

The menu:

menu for bian dang food truck

On Twitter:


On the Web:

BianDangNYC.com

Welcome to Delish.Us – The Best Food Trucks in Midtown Manhattan

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There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and almost as many food trucks.

When I first started working in downtown Manhattan in the late 1990s, there wasn’t really such a thing as a gourmet food truck. Street food consisted mainly of “dirty water dogs” and grilled mystery meat. I remember there was only one street vendor I ever visited, a hot dog vendor on a corner by the WTC (who made the best grilled hot dogs I’ve had to this day).

Around 2009 I worked on 23rd Street, so I got to observe the nascence of the food truck craze. While for most lunches I still went to regular eateries, trucks like the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck, Rafiqis, and the NYC Cravings (now Bian Dang) truck started opening my eyes.

In 2011 I started working at my current company on Madison. The restaurants within a 5 block radius seem to fall into a few categories: expensive sushi restaurants, expensive steak restaurants, and a whole bunch of cookie-cutter franchises selling boring salads, sandwiches, and soups at about $15 a pop.

Then after my umpteenth Pret sandwich and Just Salad bowl I found them. Pockets of glorious trucks lining the streets. Every kind of gourmet street food in the world lined up on after another. I felt like the anti-Yakoff Smirnoff. “In America you don’t go to restaurant–restaurant go to you!”

I soon found that there was a bit of an art to street food, from finding your favorite truck to mastering the ordering process to minimizing your wait. And so I thought I’d share my experiences with fellow hungry New Yorkers.

Okay, first of all, we all know every newspaper site in the world has done a “top 10 food trucks” list. And we all know there are plenty of specialty sites like Midtown Lunch and Yelp that already have tons of reviews. But here’s where this site will be different.

1) The reviews will be written by ME. Okay, I’m no Pete Wells, but then again this site ain’t reviewing Le Bernadin either. Who am I? I’m you. I work in midtown, I’d like to find good eats within a 10 minute walk of my office, I don’t want to wait, I don’t want to pay through the nose, and I want a meal that I can eat at my desk in peace without spilling all over the place or causing my office mate to wretch in horror.

2) We’re going to travel the world. When I first worked downtown it was my first job in “the big city” and I promised myself that each day I would try out a different country’s cuisine. That worked for about three weeks, but after that more often than not I’d just have a hot dog. But not this time. This time we are going to feast on fare from every corner of the earth.

3)  I’m going to try to include some practical advice. Sure, any food critic can tell you how the delectable bill of fare is both decadent and meltingly tender. But who else is going to tell you how to order without getting nasty glares from the people around you, or whether your food is going to stink up the office, or how to navigate a food truck ordering process that requires a rocket science degree? I’ll do my best to share my insights, and hopefully you and your fellow gastronomes will too.

4) I’ll be fair. Like you, I get a little tired of the overly entitled Yelp reviewer giving a one-star rating whining about a place because they didn’t give her enough packets of hot sauce, or the fifty glowing five-star Google reviews of a place that were clearly written by the owner and his extended family. No, I’ll tells it as I sees it (and tastes it).

Ready to go? Let’s start eating!

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