Travel Around the World in 80 Food Trucks »

Chefs on the road share their secrets with Lonely Planet, and you

By Robyn Lewis
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<i>Around the World in 80 Food Trucks</i> by Lonely Planet Food

Around the World in 80 Food Trucks by Lonely Planet Food [©Lonely Planet Global Limited]

 

Got a teen or 20-something in your house? They (and/or you) will likely love this book – it’s easy, approachable, spice-laden and fun! And you can save on carbon emissions and travel the world in your own kitchen.

It doesn't seem that long ago that the food truck – serving savoury, international food – seemed both a novelty (to consumers) and a threat (to local councils and bricks-and-mortar restaurants). They were ‘disruptive’, thus of appeal to students and startups, to those seeking a change from the same old same old, and to tourists looking for something more affordable than restaurant meals. Everyone else was prepared to hate them, out of fear that they would drive local restaurants out of business, and poison diners with insects or worse!

But food trucks have a long history, and far from causing business demise, they lured more people out to eat. In Australia their previous popular incarnation was the Mr Whippy ice-cream van, whose loud tinkles delighted children and annoyed parents in equal measure through the 1960s and 70s, but sure got them out onto the streets coins in hand.

In their US their history is even longer, dating back to the 1800s, although they fell from favour in the ‘roach coach’ days of the 1950s when they serviced construction sites and workers so hungry they’d probably eat anything, roach protein a bonus.

Roll on to the 2000s and we’re in the era of the pop-up everything: food, bars, shops, fashion... Food trucks – which may have one or more fixed or random location(s) – now serve gourmet food, often a mix of international fusion and ethnic cuisine.

With their menus and locations advertised by fans on social media, aspiring chefs took to the streets, literally, as did those whose fine dining establishments were falling from favour, and those seeking a ‘food change’ from unrewarding careers in advertising or the corporate world.

Cheap to set up, easy to run, rewarding if you like customer contact, chefs and cooks alike could take their food to their customers, and increasingly to events and festivals, private and corporate parties, beaches, riversides, and weddings… wherever there are hungry people eager to try something new. In the US there are even food truck parks with permanent locations (something the British might also recognise evolving from their weekly markets in old town squares).

‘International gourmet on a budget’ probably sums up modern food truck fare, and the recipes in Around the World in 80 Food Trucks. It’s street food with the excitement but without the flaming wok (mostly) or the list of 30 unprocurable spices. If you want to try something different (and you don’t have food trucks near you) and to prepare/serve food with minimal space and equipment, then this book is for you.

It will also whet your appetite for kitchen travel – there are recipes from Peru, Japan, Germany, Lebanon, Mexico, Ireland and more.

But be warned: truck food is not generally about nutrition, it’s about bringing people together and having fun on the go. There’s a lot of melted cheese, grills, fried pretty much everything, and lots of wraps, rolls, burgers and meat (although there are some veg options too, like Vegetable and Chickpea Shepherd’s Pie from the Spotless Leopard in Bristol, and Pakora Wrap from Manjit’s Kitchen in Leeds). Take off the fitbit and stop monitoring calories first.

A lot of food truck prep is done off-site of course (this is not necessarily fast prep!), but putting it together with crowd-drawing aromas often involves grilling or frying, deep or otherwise, involving a lot of show and sizzle. Buy this book for the fun and tasty recipes, not for health guidance. Everything in moderation, right?

Somewhat surprisingly to me, the world tour starts in Europe: firstly in Ireland, then Spain and the UK. On travels there last summer, I hardly saw a food truck, or perhaps it was because this book wasn’t yet published and I didn’t know where to look.

I’ve picked out some recipes that would be great for a teen party or for casual entertaining at home. From Spain we have the very easy San Francisco Langoustine Roll – in Australia, simply use king prawns. The Sea Bass Ceviche from Seville has an unusual twist, containing cassava and white sweet potato to make a more substantial meal. You could use any fresh, firm, white-fleshed fish for this fusion dish.

Still on seafood, the Pembrokeshire Crab Salad is a Welsh-Asian hybrid from a roving beach food truck called Café Mor – follow them on @beach food for seaweedy inspiration.

I love goat’s cheese, but why I’d never thought to put it in a toasted cheese sandwich with honey and walnuts like The Cheese Truck in London do, I’ll never know. But I will now!

The nearly Laffa Street Food’s Jerusalem Spiced Chicken sounds perfect for my next bbq, too, but if you do want to fry it, Mother Clucker’s recipe sounds better than KFC!

However there are healthy recipes in here too, such as Pitaya Bowl from the Princess Kitchen in Hong Kong, made with dragon fruit, goji berries and more; the Amazon-rainforest-inspired Detox Acai Bowl, a best seller in Perth, Western Australia; and more, including lots for vegos too.

The publishers missed a golden opportunity to put QR codes on each page, so that we readers could simply scan them with our smartphones to find the truck’s current location and menus from their Insta pages (or websites or Facebook pages). However they do list the URLs and Twitter handles etc, so you can type them in.

This is important if you ever want to find/visit the foodtrucks, or to share them with friends, as ‘addresses’ are mostly given as a suburb, so you have to look them up online to locate them. (A few are more specific eg “over the road from the Hyundai Midland car dealership, 16th Rd, Jo’burg.”)

The index is by region, not by food type, which makes finding recipes a bit difficult too, but it’s spread over 2 pages so it’s fairly easy to browse for inspiration.

I sure found plenty, looking at the number of sticky notes I’ve put in it, from Pulled Pork to Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp, Tuscan Beef Ragu to Ras el Hanout Halloumi Kebabs, and many more. I just have to get my daughter and her teenaged friends cooking them now while I enjoy them with a beer or wine. Cheers!

 

Around the World in 80 Food Trucks edited by Christina Webb, Lucy Doncaster and Dora Ball is published by Lonely Planet Global Limited (London, March 2019; hc 176 pp) and retails in Australia for A$29.99.

 

It can be purchased online via Booko.com.au here »e

 

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July 30th, 2019
 
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