Category Archives: Asia

The Flying Pig (Chinese)

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Food Truck: The Flying Pig

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: China

One thing I’ve always found unique about New York and authentic, long-time New Yorkers is that we all come from different cultures and backgrounds, but rather than letting it tear us apart (despite the best efforts of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum), we can come together in one shared identity as New Yorkers while at the same time sharing of the best of our respective cultures with each other. Sometimes it seems to be that more can be accomplished for international diplomacy and understanding at 48th and Park than can be accomplished 5 avenues to the east.

The Flying Pig Jianbing introduces New Yorkers to a popular street food in China called Jian Bing Guo Zi (煎饼果子/煎餅果子) which is eaten for breakfast in the morning as well as as a snack throughout the day. It originated from the city of Tianjing in northeastern China, but can be found in just about every city in northern China.

I never quite like it when people use words like “crepe” or “tortilla” or “burrito” to describe Asian dishes, because all of those words have connotations that have little to do with the Chinese word for “pancake”, or 饼/餅. But of course like all those things, the Jian Bing Guo Zi consists of goodies enclosed in a an outer wrapping for convenient eating.

The Flying Pig’s Jianbing starts with a flour and egg batter that makes up the outer pancake. They then line it with crispy wontons to give it a delightful flavor and crunch.

You can choose from a number of fillings for an additional $2.50 each; I asked the nice young lady at the window which the most popular was and she said it was the sausage; I was expecting a bit more of an Asian flair, but it ended up tasting a lot like chorizo. There’s also scallions and hoisin sauce, and the whole thing is folded over a few times.

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The result was just a delightful mix of flavors and textures. The portion size is huge, like an overstuffed sandwich. If there’s one thing that might be off-putting to some, it’s that the Jianbing is very, very thick and doughy; this is actually quote normal in Northern China cuisine, mainly because it’s so darned cold up there most of the year.

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There are reports of people waiting long blocks of time, but maybe because I went later in the afternoon (around 2), I got my food almost right away.

Friendly service, a unique kind of street food, and did I mention the most adorable food truck in Manhattan?

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Definitely worth a try.

4 of 5 stars

Price I paid: $9.50

Line: short

Tricks for fast ordering: This is not rocket science. Order the Beijing Original Vegetarian for $7.00 and add a topping or two for an additional $2.50.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Jianbing with Chorizo

The menu:

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On Facebook:

On the Web:

The Flying Pig

Coney Shack (Asian)

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Food Truck: Coney Shack

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Southeast Asia

Usually the selection of food trucks on a given block at a time is pretty unique. It’s rare to see two trucks of the same kind together.

But coming to 47th and Park today I saw two “Asian Taco” trucks, Coney Shack and Domo Taco. I hadn’t been to either of them, but both of them seemed to have the same promise: food with the convenience of a Latin American taco and the flavors of Asia.

Admittedly my expectations were a little low. I’ve had “fish tacos” in the past and have usually been underwhelmed. I never quite saw the appeal. Plus, when I think of words like “burrito” and “taco”, I think of things like yellow rice and beans, not lemongrass chicken and Asian beef shortribs. But I figured I’d give it a shot.

I stood back for a little bit and noticed that Coney Shack was getting a lot more foot traffic than Domo Taco, despite the clearly superior name of the latter. It was clear why just looking at the menu. The Coney Shack menu was very clear–they had four food groups, the Taco, the Hot Dog, the Burrito, and the Quesadilla each with a very distinct set of ingredients. The Domo Taco truck had a similar menu but just didn’t seem as clear cut.

Also, Coney Shack had a sign highlighting that they won the Rookie of the Year award at the 2015 Vendy Awards, which I found to also be impressive. I decided to go with them.

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I saw that they had a $10 rice bowl special with Hainanese chicken rice, which is easily among my most favorite foods in the whole world. But since their claim to fame appears to be tacos, I figured I’d order those instead and get the chicken rice bowl some other time.

Individual tacos are $4 each and it’s 3 for $11, so it was a no-brainer to get the three. I asked the nice woman at the window what the most popular flavors were and she said the Beer Battered Crunchy Fish taco, the Vietnamese Beef Shortrib, and the Five Spice Calamari. I decided to go for those three.

The order took about 5-7 minutes to be made, but when it came the presentation was beautiful. Unlike other trucks where they’ll throw your food into a paper bag and it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll see when you open it, these tacos were carefully placed in the aluminum container and then placed carefully so the contents wouldn’t shift in transit. I appreciated them putting as much care into the presentation as they did the food. When I got back to the office the food looked as amazing as it did at the truck.

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The Beer Battered Crunchy Fish taco was amazing. I don’t know what it is about Asian deep frying but for some reason whether I’m eating a piece of fried fish or a piece of fried chicken it tastes much lighter than your Arthur Treacher’s or KFC, almost to the point of it feeling healthy. In this case, the batter was crispy but light and flaky with a very subtle deep fried taste. The fish was also light with a wonderful mild taste, and on top of it was cabbage, cilantro, scallions, and thinly sliced onions with a mayo dressing (or more accurately, a lemongrass aioli), all on top of a soft tortilla. This is one where I made sure I ate every last piece that fell into my dish.

The Vietnamese Beef Shortrib was also beautiful to look at, with carmelized onions, daikon radish, and cilantro, garlic, toasted sesame seeds, and sweet chili spicy mayo dressing. And of course, the beef which was tender and marinated in a sweet soy sauce. Some may find off-putting the fact that there’s chewy tendons mixed in with the beef, but Asians will tell you that’s actually the best part. The combination of flavors is exquisite.

Finally, the five spice calamari. The squid is fried in the same light batter as the fish, and again the mix of the flavors of the crispy calamari with 5 spice, picked red onion, aioli, and a tomato basil creole sauce makes its flavor remarkably unique as well and thoroughly satisfying.

What impressed me is that each of the three tacos had a distinct personality of its own. The fish taco was light and crisp with a refreshing quality, the shortrib was sweet and savory with a richness, and the calamary had an exotic, complex flavor that did interesting things with the five spices.

I don’t dole out five star reviews very much, but this truck had it all. I will be going back.

5 of 5

Price I paid: $11

Line: 5 mins

Tricks for fast ordering: Do the 3 for 11 taco mix-match. Choose any taco at random, they’re all good.

What to order if you’re a newbie: 3 for 11 with fish, shortribs, calamari.

The menu:

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On Twitter:


Bobjo (Korean)

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Food Truck: BOB&JO

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Korea

I love Korean BBQ, but I’m also really, really lazy. So when I go to one of those Korean BBQ places I love the food, but I really, really wish I didn’t have to cook it myself.

Enter Bobjo. With Bobjo you get all the flavors and textures of a long Korean BBQ in a convenient lunch-sized package and price.

The Bobjo truck is one of those that tends to stand out, mainly because of the picture of “Bob’s” face at the door in the front of the truck, a stern-yet-lovable looking guy who seems to be calling out to you to…come…eat.

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I presume Jo is on the driver’s side (I didn’t rush into traffic to take a look) and in the back you can see the pusses of both Bob & Jo.

The guy at the window didn’t look anything like Bob–he was really nice and ordering was a breeze. I decided to splurge and go for the beef, which was the priciest thing on the menu and was advertised as USDA Prime beef. While waiting, I could see them cooking up the meat from scratch in the back on a griddle, not unlike watching someone cook up a cheesesteak.

It took about six minutes from the time I placed my order to the time I was handed a tidy plastic container with salad on one side and meat and rice on the other. Once I had my prize I hurriedly ran back to my office desk to eat.

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The salad (to the left) consists of a sweet gingery sauce on top of lettuce, thinly chopped bell peppers, onions, and carrots, green onions, cucumbers, and beans. It works because when I take a scoop of lettuce and beef, it tastes just like when I’m in a Korean BBQ place making my own lettuce wraps. There are also a few slices of pickled radish which also complement the beef well.

Ah, the beef. I had a little buyers remorse at first due to the higher price. But one bite and I was glad I splurged. As far as bulgogi goes, it was seasoned to perfection and had that perfect balance of sweetness and a slight char. I was afraid that the meat would continue cooking in the 7 minute walk back to my office, which it did to some extent, but when I got to my desk it was still tender and flavorful.

To top it off, a perfectly fried egg.

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Overall Bobjo delivered precisely what I wanted–a Korean BBQ experience for the lazy among us who don’t want to spend three hours at dinner or who no matter how we cook our meat always think that someone else could have done it better. In Bobjo’s case, they did.

4.5 of 5

Price I paid: $13.00

Line: 6 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: You can’t go wrong with any choice, but for the full experience you’ll want to choose a platter–just pick pork, shrimp, or beef.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Beef BBQ Platter

The menu:

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On Twitter:


Mausam Curry N Bites (Indian)

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Food Truck: Mausam Curry N Bites

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: India

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with Indian food. Two of my roommates in college were Indian, and they cooked up some of the most amazing food I’ve had. My first roommate’s specialty was chicken curry which was so spicy you couldn’t eat three bites without ending up drenched in tears. My other roommate did amazing things with chickpeas, also not skimping on the heat. I have both of them to thank for my ability to take and enjoy spicy food today.

On the other hand, for some reason Indian food in restaurants never appealed to me much. It might be because in my college days we’d frequent an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet by our school, and as a college student who’d taken a couple of Econ classes, I took the cost-benefit analysis very seriously, I never, ever left the buffet without eating myself into the black.

And so today I’ll generally eat Indian sparingly. But since I’m on a quest on this blog to eat every type of cuisine there is, I jumped when I saw the Mausam truck parked at 47th and Park.

As I read on the outside of the truck “Mausam” means “Seasons”. Their slogan is “A variety of fresh food and spices for all tastes and seasons”.

Another sign shows that they come all the way from Secaucus, NJ. “Mausam Indian Restaurant, Bar & Banquets in Secaucus New Jersey brings its traditional Indian cuisine served American style to New York City. Mausam is preparing a variety of Curries fresh every day and making them available in New York City by way of Curry-N-Bites branded food vendor trucks”. Their Yelp reviews look mediocre until you dig deeper and see that their negative reviews are mostly about their delivery and service in the restaurant. The food itself gets rave reviews.

Not knowing too much about Indian food I did the food truck faux pas of standing at the front of the line with a clueless expression on my face staring at the menu–as you can see below there’s a dizzying array of 5 options with 6 sauces for a total of 30 choices.

I asked the owner what the most popular dishes were and he said the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Chicken Curry. Then, he asked me if I liked spicy and I said yes. He said I should definitely try the Chicken Vandaloo, which I did. Between his enunciation, the street noise, and my poor hearing it took me a few times to get the word right. “Bandaloo?” “Pandaloo?”

When I got back and Googled each dish they all had the same definition: “a dish of roasted chunks (tikka) of chicken in a spicy sauce”. The difference, of course, is in the nuances of the different sauces. While reaching out to an Indian friend will help you understand their preferences you’ll really need to try out each one for yourself to understand the true differences.

They got my order pretty quickly, well within 5 minutes. I brought it back to my desk. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very careful transporting it, so when I opened the plastic bag there was yellow sauce all over. I also had to apologize to my officemate for the smell which was nice but as with all good Indian food had staying power.

chicken vindaloo

The portions were generous. There was plenty of rice, of course, which was basmati rice that was nicely seasoned. There was the usual “symbolic” salad you find in a lot of food truck fare, with lettuce, carrots, and a little of tomato drenched in oil and vinegar. There was also a paratha flat bread which was excellent–not too greasy but just greasy enough 🙂

And then there was the chicken. To my surprise, the sauce wasn’t too heavy at all. It had a very herbal seasoning that accentuated the chicken nicely. It had a kick but wasn’t overly spicy, which I was okay with. I cleaned my plate but didn’t feel too soporific afterwards (although the afternoon is young).

Overall, I felt my $9 was well spent. If you love Indian food, this is a great place to satisfy your cravings. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely would love to go back and try the chicken curry.

4 of 5 stars.

Price I paid: $9

Line: Instantaneous

Tricks for fast ordering: Know your Indian food in advance. If you don’t know the difference between a Tikka and a Vindaloo and a Mughlai you’ll save yourself and everyone behind you lots of time.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Chicken Curry Combo or Chicken Tikka Masala Combo

The menu:

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On Twitter:


On the Web:

Mausam

Luckyim Thai (Thai)

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Food Truck: Luckyim Thai

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Thailand

Our next food truck takes us to southeast Asia. On 47th and Park I came across Luckyim Thai.

I actually wasn’t thinking of going to this truck at first; I was really eyeing the truck next to it (which shall remain nameless). But as I approached that one I heard the two guys in the truck in a loud shouting match. Not great for business. So I did a 180 and landed right in front of this truck, where they served me courteously and with a smile. While I liked even more is that it seemed like a family-run operation.

Their menu is surprisingly extensive for a small truck, but I knew immediately what I would order, the pad thai. For the last 30 years, anytime I would visit a Thai restaurant this would be the one thing I order to use as my benchmark in comparing them with each other.

Here’s what I ended up getting:

pad thai from nyc

The shrimp was excellent with a snap, something I’d expect to find in a restaurant and not a food truck. The noodles were also cooked to perfection—not too dry, not too sticky, and not watery. The sauce was quite a bit sweeter than I’d like. I heard in retrospect that you can request them to make it spicy; I wish they’d written a reminder on their sign, as the default is decidedly not spicy at all (let’s face it, as cosmopolitan as Manhattanites claim to be, a lot of them are still wimps when it comes to a little heat).

The portions are pretty generous, filling a sturdy white plastic container and complete with carrots, egg, crushed peanuts on top, and a lime wedge. While I enjoyed it overall, it struck me that it didn’t contain bean sprouts or scallions. Not that I minded too much, but a purist might have had more issues with that.

Ordering is pretty simple, not the ridiculously convoluted process that other trucks seem to have. While I enjoyed it, I’d say it’s more of a nice-to-visit than a must-visit.

4 of 5 stars.

Price I paid: $9

Line: short

Tricks for fast ordering: before you go, Google those things on the menu that you forgot the meaning of, things like pad se-ew and drunkman noodles.

What to order if you’re a newbie: The pad thai and if you’re feeling extravagant, the Thai iced tea.

The menu:

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 On Twitter:


Korrilla BBQ (Korean)

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Food Truck: Korilla BBQ

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Korea

Our next stop is Korea or specifically the Korilla BBQ truck on 47th and Park.

Korilla has been a staple of the New York food truck scene since it opened in 2010. This is one of those trucks where any time of the day it’s there, there’ll be a line.

The day I went there was already a line forming at 11:45 AM, and it’s a testament to this truck that there were a bunch of trucks already open up and down the street, but people were dutifully waiting.

They try to keep the line moving so they post instructions on the truck, but as with many of these trucks you’ll draw the ire of everyone behind you if you spend too much time trying to figure out what’s going on. Here’s the ordering process:

1) First, you can get either a rice bowl or a burrito. The main difference here is basically whether you want to eat with a fork or with your hands.

2) Next you choose your rice. You can get white, glutinous (sticky) rice, or you can splurge for a dollar more and get bacon kimchi fried rice (hint: splurge)

3) Next you choose your protein. If you want the quintessential korean experience go for the bulgogi (ribeye), which is excellent—it’s marinated and cooked to perfection with a slightly sweet and savory flavor.

4) The next steps are where people tend to get a little tripped up. You can choose cheese or salsa as a topping. Then, you choose different pickled vegetables, including kimchi, pickled cucumbers, daikon radish, and slaw. I find here it’s easiest just to say “the works” and let them decide what to give you—you’ll get a taste of everything and then you’ll be able to be more selective in the future (or in my case, just ask for the works each time).

5) Finally you’ll pick a sauce. Korilla Sauce is sort of your typical mayo-ketchup Russian dressing-type sauce. To the other extreme, the k’illa is really, really spicy (I just downed a whole can of Diet Mountain Dew after eating a couple bites, and I’m usually someone who tolerates spicy pretty well).

I got the bulgogi and fried rice with the works and a combination of korilla and k’illa sauce. Here’s what it looked like.

korean bbq for lunch

Pretty, huh? It tasted amazing as well. It was like going to a Korean BBQ place, but instead of getting your meal in a thousand small bowls they just jump everything together.

The portion size is just right, but I had the feeling they skimped a little on the beef. Still, the mix of sweet and savory and salty with the beef, veggies, and rice made for an incredible combination.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Wonderful meal, but the long line, difficulty in ordering, and small portion of the beef made me dock them half a point.

Price I paid:

Line: long

Tricks for fast ordering: memorize the menu and be prepared to rattle off your choice under 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 quickly. This is not a line you want to hold up.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Rice bowl with bacon kimchi fried rice, bulgogi or pork, and “the works”. Don’t choose the k’illa sauce if you can’t take the heat.

The menu:

menu, part 1

menu part 2
menu, part 2

On Twitter:


On the Web:

KorrillaBBQ.com.

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

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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