On the Food Network television show The Great Food Truck Race, seven mobile kitchens competed for a $50,000 grand prize in a six-city elimination race. In Los Angeles, people forgo fancy restaurants for $5 plates of Korean-Latino fast-fusion food. Even Oprah Winfrey is talking about the fast and fancy rise of the modern food truck.
Mobile food vendors have seen a reinvention and a renaissance the last few years. Mobile restaurateurs are now the height of culinary chic. They’re cropping up in every city, oftentimes guerrilla-style at first, but eventually winning over the local foodies, authorities, and critics – though not necessarily in that order.
Food trucks serve anything that’s good. Owners let their imaginations and personal tastes guide, as much as their budgets will allow. There are traditional trucks, like New York’s “Sainted Arepa Lady,” local/seasonal/artisanal trucks, like Seattle’s Skillet, and one-item specialty trucks, like Koo’s Sweet Rice Pancake cart from Los Angeles. The most fascinating trend of all is probably the fusion food truck.
Fusion cuisine used to mean $30 a plate. Now it means hot dogs topped with Chinese barbecue pork belly and onions, Korean short rib tacos, lemongrass pork sandwiches with carrot slaw, marsala mushrooms in a waffle cone – all for between $2 and $7 a plate.