The trailer food business is, by nature, a fusion business. It blends the best efforts of gourmet chefs with the street food medium. Yet some food trailers have taken the fusion concept a step further and created their menu with a blend of two or more culinary cultures. Here is a sampling of fusion food you can find in the mobile food scene in Austin:
Suggested dish: Pad Thai Taco ($3) - Chicken or tofu sauteed in a traditional pad Thai sauce, bean sprouts, peanuts, lime wedge.
Story: Former attorney Eric Silverstein was born in Japan. Having traveled throughout Asia to China, Bali and Singapore, he has been exposed to different cultures and foods from an early age. At ten, he moved to Atlanta where he learned about the sultry influences of southern cuisine. When he started his food truck concept, it made sense to mingle the best of both worlds and utilize both Southern and Asian cuisine with the tortilla as his pallet. Thus, the Peached Tortilla was born.
Suggested dish: Bulgogi Beef Taco (2/$5) - includes soy vinaigrette Korean salad, cilantro, onion, Chi'Lantro salsa, sesame seeds, served on doubled layered corn tortilla.
Story: Take Chi'Lantro's owner Jae Kim. Born in Korea, raised in Orange County, he developed a love for diverse flavors at an early age. "I grew up with burritos and Korean food; the reason I wanted to do it (Chi'Lantro) in Austin is because Austin is culturally diverse. Austin welcomes the trailer scene and they want to try something new."
Suggested dish: Sprung Rolls (2/$5) - rice paper wrappers filled with rice noodles, pickled carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, spring mix, and cilantro with added sweetened portabella and creamy avocado.
Story: Me So Hungry trailer owner, Christina Alsonso, grew up with parents from different countries that each had bold tastes. Inspired by her mother from Asia and her father from Cuba, she offers spicy/sweet flavors from two sides of the world. "Growing up, I craved both foods and we were only allowed to have Asian food when dad wasn't home. Sometimes he would only compromise with Chinese fried rice, but he still needed the Cuban flavor. So, mom would fry a plantain to add to the side," says Christina. It's true, the Me So Hungry trailer is currently only showcasing the Vietnamese side of their menu, but they are offering a custom Cuban + Vietnamese menu for catering.
Suggested dish: Longanisa Slider ($5/2 with a side of plantain chips) - made with homemade sausage we make there in the truck, garlic, pineapple - cilantro, lime, ranch, tomato and slider bun
Story: Mark Pascual, one of four owners who grew up in Sugarland, Texas and 2nd generation Filipino, met his partners at school at UT. "Our plates would sometimes look like adobo chicken over rice (traditional Filipino) with a side of mac and cheese. We created the trailer because there wasn't any good Filipino options in Austin."
Suggested dish: The OG: Marinated beef short ribs, French fries, Korean slaw, onion & cilantro, caramelized kimchi, sesame oil vinaigrette and garlic spread.
Story: Another similar story of fusing friendship and flavors, the Coreanos trailer was founded by three friends who grew up with Korean and Mexican heritages in Los Angeles. Their menu is reflective of childhood memories of blended cuisines. The Coreano's motto is "Mexican cuisine with Korean in between."
Yes, we all think that we have the perfect product and that we will sell out every time! I guess in this biz we all need a lot of confidence and to approach every event that way. We all must learn that we are learning every event, no matter how long we have been in the biz. We may be loved at one event, and bomb the next. Tried and true foods are not always tried and true. Fads come and go. Be flexible. I have a core of menu items but I also have some flexible ones. In this biz, even if you have been around, you will always need to add a new event, and then will be the 'new kid' again and again. If you are not flexible, you will find many events saying, 'no thanks, we have that', but if you have some others to add, you just might find your way in off that 'waiting list.'
No matter what - be nice to your fellow venders. Everyone has something to contribute, and you might just get a lead on a great event, find a new outlet for your products, or get a great new supplier out of conversations with others. I am fairly new, and working on adding to my code 'go to ' events for each year, so keeping my ears open often finds me good new events. But even though I am new, I find that I am constantly being approached by people who are curious about our business, want to be in the concession business, or just want to ask questions. I always try to take some time and answer as much as I can. I try to guide potential newbies to the biz, because the man I bought my first concession trailer gave me a lot of sage advice with the trailer, as he was getting out with the sale to me. I try to pay it forward, and heck, being nice will always get you further than being nasty. And I try to make people who want to get into this that it's not all roses, there are lots of health codes you need to address, never mind the mine field of licenses, taxes, hard work, and small paybacks at times.
But if you find a good event - stand your ground. Make sure the promoter keeps you in that position, and doesn't add a direct competitor. Be vocal, but be nice. Most events will not duplicate, so it you find someone stepping on your turf, make sure you talk to the promoter. If may not help you out that year, but the next, make sure they take care of you. The honest ones will.