Korean American chef Roy Choi’s ascent to Los Angeles food stardom has been well documented in the press. In a New York Times article last year, Southern California chef Eric Greenspan said Choi “is in many ways equally a culinary phenomenon and a cultural phenomenon.”
As the purveyor of the first gourmet food truck to develop a following in LA – a city where there are now a couple of hundred trucks dotting the streets and “changing the way many Americans buy their lunch” – it's not outrageous to suggest that the food truck culture in Cape Town, South Africa, is largely attributable to him too.
Classically trained Choi’s first food truck Kogi (and its Mexican-Korean tacos) is still around, and now so are six restaurants he's opened and a room service menu he designed for LA Koreatown hotel The Line – “what may be the only room-service menu in the contiguous United States where you find the usual club sandwiches sharing space with Spam and eggs, a hulking breakfast burrito, congee porridge, pork fried rice and a thermos full of instant ramen garlanded with an egg and quick-dissolving slices of American cheese,” according to The New York Times.
From Japanese-style hot dogs in Vancouver to buttermilk blueberry pancakes in Paris, food trucks cruise the highways and byways all over the show now. In Cape Town, they feature at The Neighbourgoods Market on Saturdays, in parking lots on First and Third Thursdays, at music festivals and at Design Indaba in two spots:
At Indabar for Conference delegates – on the patch of grass opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre – Chef’s Bench, The Good Life, Didi’s Bitchin’ Burritos, Lotus and The Grubbery will be slinging charcuterie, flatbreads, wraps, Tex-Mex, Asian, corn dogs and burgers. Sugary Sensations will be the resident dessert truck.
On the Expo floor there will be eight more food trucks, four of which are launching signature dishes at the Expo:
Second Breakfast’s Umm Amina is a tribute to the traditional Arab bread and butter pud, “Umm Ali”, with a coconut, mint and cocoa twist.
RAWsome Café is making a beer-braised pulled pork wrap: pork shoulder braised in craft beer, dressed with a hickory BBQ espresso sauce, wrapped in a GM-free flour tortilla with a pico de gallo salsa and rocket.
Hemazing’s deconstructed sweet potato samosa with pomegranate, mint and raita uses banting-friendly pastry.
Square Tomato’s kataifi is a pastry into which goes feta, kefalotiri cheese, organic sundried tomato, fresh oregano and finely chopped red onion with a reduced ruby port and honey syrup.
One thing’s certain. We may not have 200 food trucks in this town but Roy Choi still has a lot of eating to do.