Browsing articles tagged with " food carts"
Feb 26, 2015
Tim Lester

Hawker Fare Brings Pricey Southeast Asian Street Food to the Mission

There is not much I can actually claim to know anything about, but given my Southeast Asian heritage—and the fact that I spent the majority of my 20s traveling the backpacker circuit through that part of the world—I feel confident about my knowledge and familiarity with the cuisines of the region. So when Michelin-starred chef James Syhabout recently opened the second outpost of his Thai street-food eatery Hawker Fare in the Valencia Street corridor, we summoned a First World tuk-tuk (aka an Uber) to whisk us there, stat. No reason to keep nostalgia waiting.

Designed to evoke the lively night markets in Thailand, the tables are draped in colorful oil cloths and the walls are layered with the patterned floor mats seen in every Thai home. Red metal folding chairs are charming in a this-is-how-they-do-it-over-there kind of way, but the no-frills seating made me wonder just how transportive the dining experience is meant to be: We’re not actually in Bangkok, after all, and yet we’re willing to pay 10x (or more!) the going rate for street food. So maybe throw a little cushion on the chair?

Since the food comes out of the kitchen at lightning speed, actual consumption is just as swift, which adds to the adventurousness of the experience. We started with the som tom lao, a Laotian-style green papaya salad with salted black crab, fish sauce, lime, and plenty of kick from dried chiles. The salad was practically swimming in its spicy dressing, which felt like a haphazard preparation—again, true to its exotic origins, but I expect a bit more refinement for the price. Even my neighborhood mom-and-pop Thai joint makes a better presentation. To extinguish the fire, we sipped on a puckeringly refreshing rum cocktail called Dr. Wong. 

We also enjoyed the satay beef neau, grilled short ribs that have been marinated in coconut milk. Nothing brings me back to childhood like grilled meat paired with rice, and at Hawker Fare, the chicken fat rice is the bowl of choice. It also makes a savory sopper-upper to the true star of the evening, a super funky, earthy-to-the-max, graphite-colored stew of bamboo, wood-ear mushrooms, and whole hard-boiled quail eggs, the yolks of which add richness to an otherwise brothy brew. You don’t know why you like it, or even if you like it, but you can’t stop eating it. Barring this kind of tastebud-brain confusion, the soul-satisfying quotient of this concoction is off the charts.

My father loves to make halo-halo, a traditional Filipino kitchen-sink dessert made with shave ice, sweet beans, ice cream, sweetened condensed milk, fresh coconut, and whatever else you think might taste good. The Hawker Fare version is similar, with coconut sorbet, condensed milk, boiled peanuts, and adzuki beans. I loved the flavors, but wished the ice was snowier. Having spent years of my life rigged up in orthodontics, crunching ice chips the size of betrothal-worthy diamonds is not how I want to reverse all of that good dentistry. 

Due to the expediency of the meal (we clocked 25 minutes!), I discovered that I missed the lingering dining experience. To loiter a little longer would have meant ordering more spendy food. We were still hungry, after all. Were the prices on par with street food in Bangkok (everything else is quite evocative—from the full-on flavors to the clanky, two-bit enamelware to the aforementioned breakneck service), staying awhile might have worked out. Don’t get me wrong, I understand about the price of doing business in this city. I understand that Hawker Fare ingredients are higher end, and the recipes have been gourmetified. I understand that those costs must be passed onto the consumer. But there’s no sugar-coating the fact that Hawker Fare tabs run high rather quickly, sooner than you can hit the satiation point, and before you know it, you’re a few doors down at Craftsman Wolves, latte in hand, chocolate chip cookie on deck, in maximum lingering mode.

Hawker Fare: 680 Valencia (at 18th Street), SF, 415-400-5699 (also located in Oakland at 2300 Webster [at 23rd Street]; 510.832.8896)

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Feb 25, 2015
Jim Benson

Food cart owners puzzled by bizarre SE Portland burglary


Several food carts on SE 52nd and Foster were burglarized before they opened Tuesday morning, and the thieves made off with some bizarre items.

“My padlocks were laying on the ground, and some food was taken, [my wife's] orange juice was taken and left down at the barbeque cart, so they must have been thirsty,” said Kenney Goss, the owner of Happy Espresso.

Goss said his ham and pastrami were also taken, along with a smart phone used for running credit and debit cards.

Happy Espresso, Yakisoba Noodle, Roadrunner Bar-B-Q and J Mo’s Sandwich Shack were all targeted; in most cases, locks were cut and the carts were ransacked.

The owner of Roadrunner Bar-B-Q told Fox 12 the thieves just took quarters from her till, but nothing else.

The “Carts on Foster” were dealt a tough blow back in the fall, when someone cut the commercial power cords running to most of the carts in the pod, causing hundreds of dollars in damage and lost revenue.

Police responded to take a report and get fingerprints early Tuesday, and some cart owners told Fox 12 they’d be adding their own surveillance cameras as a little extra insurance going forward.

Winter is already a tough time to make your living running a food cart, and many of these owners have been targeted before. So now their message is clear:

“We’re watching out for you, we’ve got cameras out,” Goss added. “Don’t be surprised if somebody’s going to be watching this – we’d love to catch you.”

Copyright 2015 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Feb 25, 2015
Kim Rivers

Food Truck Nation: Tracking The Food Truck Trend

In the last few years, it seems as if food trucks have taken over the food scene in many cities. These modern food trucks provide an array of eclectic, gourmet options for cheap. Mobile food is not a new concept in the United States. From the chuck wagons of the old west to the hot dog stands of New York City, quick, inexpensive, food on the road has been a part of our nation’s history.

With this recent resurgence of food trucks, mobile cuisine has gained respect and become popular with everyday folks and foodies alike. Moving beyond just theme parks and food festivals, these businesses have grown and become a financial force within the food industry. Using social media to share locations and fuel public interest, this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, even after almost a decade. How did this gourmet food truck trend start? And, how did it turn the United States into a food truck nation? We have created an infographic to answer some of your food truck questions and lay out the history of the modern food truck trend.

Click image to enlarge.


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Feb 25, 2015
Kim Rivers

A food truck that’s an engine of change

Shortly after graduating from Wesleyan University, Jordyn Lexton took a job with East River Academy, teaching literature to incarcerated youths on Rikers Island.

“I grew up with every opportunity in the world,” said the 28-year-old Upper East Sider. “So many things struck me about being on Rikers. I was overwhelmed by how many young people of color were there.”

Three years in, Ms. Lexton grew determined to make a difference in her students’ lives. Last year, she raised nearly $500,000 to buy a food truck (called Snowday) and launch Drive Change, a nonprofit that trains formerly incarcerated young people and helps them find jobs in the food-service industry. They all start out working on the truck, which serves sweet and savory dishes, all featuring New York maple syrup.

So far, Drive Change has trained eight men and two women, some of whom have jobs at the sandwich chain ‘wichcraft and the caterer Great Performances. Snowday hit the road on a high note, winning Rookie of the Year at the Vendy Awards street-food competition. Gothamist and Time Out named it one of the top 10 food trucks in the city.

On some days, Ms. Lexton works on the truck, talking to customers about social-justice issues while also planning her next big initiative: securing a commissary where food trucks can park overnight, get cleaned and load up. “We have relationships with organizations that own real estate that would be perfect for this,” Ms. Lexton said.

The idea is also to provide back-end services to the food trucks parking there, supplying them with employees as well.

While she was teaching on Rikers, Ms. Lexton said, her students were most excited about the culinary-arts class. “I realized that we could create a business that would be practical,” she said, “and be engaging at the same time.”

A version of this article appears in the February 23, 2015, print issue of Crain’s New York Business.

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Feb 25, 2015
Kim Rivers

City Commission tables food truck rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, a rising Republican star already facing an ethics inquiry, has spent taxpayer and campaign funds on flights aboard private planes owned by some of his key donors, The Associated Press has found. There also have been other expensive travel and entertainment charges, including for a massage company and music concerts.

The expenses highlight the relationships that lawmakers sometimes have with donors who fund their political ambitions, an unwelcome message for a congressman billed as a fresh face of the GOP. The AP identified at least one dozen flights worth more than $40,000 on donors’ planes since mid-2011.

The AP tracked Schock’s reliance on the aircraft partly through the congressman’s penchant for uploading pictures and videos of himself to his Instagram account. The AP extracted location data associated with each image then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock’s office and campaign records.

Asked for comment, Schock responded in an email on Monday that he travels frequently throughout his Peoria-area district “to stay connected with my constituents” and also travels to raise money for his campaign committee and congressional colleagues.

He said he takes compliance with congressional funding rules seriously and has begun a review of his office’s procedures “concerning this issue and others to determine whether they can be improved.” The AP had been seeking comment from Schock’s office since mid-February to explain some of his expenses.

Donors who owned planes on which travel was paid for by Schock’s House and political accounts did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment Monday.

Schock’s high-flying lifestyle, combined with questions about expenses decorating his office after the TV show “Downton Abbey,” add to awkward perceptions on top of allegations he illegally solicited donations in 2012.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said in a 2013 report that there was reason to believe Schock violated House rules by soliciting campaign contributions for a committee that backed Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in a 2012 primary. The House Ethics Committee has said that query remains open.

“Haters are gonna hate,” Schock, 33, told ABC News after the “Downton Abbey” story broke in The Washington Post, brushing off the controversy by invoking a line from one of pop singer Taylor Swift’s songs.

Lawmakers can use office funds for private flights as long as payments cover their share of the costs. But most of the flights Schock covered with office funds occurred before the House changed its rules in January 2013. The earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using those accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.

Schock’s House account paid more than $24,000 directly to a Peoria aviation firm for eight flights provided by one of Schock’s donor’s planes in 2011 and 2012. While the aircraft flies as part of an Illinois charter service, the owner of the service told the AP on Monday that any payments made directly to the donor’s aviation company would not have been for charter flights.

Beyond air travel, Schock spent thousands more on tickets for concerts, car mileage reimbursements — among the highest in Congress — and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry concert in Washington last June.

The donor planes include an Italian-made Piaggio twin-engine turboprop owned by Todd Green of Springfield, Illinois, who runs car dealerships in Schock’s district with his brother, Jeff. Todd Green told a Springfield newspaper that Jeff — a pilot and campaign contributor — and Schock have been friends for a long time.

The AP found that Green’s plane traveled to at least eight cities last October in the Midwest and East Coast, cities where Schock met with political candidates ahead of the midterm elections. His Instagram account’s location data and information from the service FlightAware even pinpointed Schock’s location on a stretch of road near one airport before Green’s plane departed.

Campaign records show a $12,560 expense later that month to Jeff Green from a political action committee associated with Schock, called the “GOP Generation Y Fund.” That same month, the PAC paid $1,440 to a massage parlor for a fundraising event.

In November 2013, Schock cast votes in the Capitol just after Green’s plane landed at nearby Reagan National Airport. Shortly after Green’s return to Peoria, Schock posted a photo from his “Schocktoberfest” fundraising event at a brewery in his district. Schock billed his office account $11,433 for commercial transportation during that same, four-day period to a Peoria flight company, Byerly Aviation.

The AP’s review covered Schock’s travel and entertainment expenses in his taxpayer-funded House account, in his campaign committee and the GOP Generation Y Fund. Records show more than $1.5 million in contributions to the Generation Y Fund since he took office in 2009.

Schock used House office expenses to pay more than $24,000 for eight flights between May 2011 and December 2012 on a six-passenger Cessna Golden Eagle owned by DB Jet Inc., run by Peoria agribusiness consultant and major Schock donor Darren Frye. While DB is a private corporate aviation firm, it also flies with Jet Air Inc., an Illinois-based aviation firm licensed by the FAA for charter service.

Records show Schock used House funds to directly pay DB instead of Jet Air for the eight flights. Under the old rules that previously allowed House funds to pay only for charter or commercial aircraft, Schock’s office would likely not have been authorized to pay for private flights unless the House Ethics Committee approved it.

Harrel W. Timmons, Jet Air’s owner, said in a telephone interview that any charter flights DB flies through his firm are paid directly to Jet Air. “They’ve got their own corporate jet and pilot,” he said.

House records also show that, since 2013, Schock has flown four times on a Cessna owned by Peoria auto dealer Michael J. Miller and businessman Matthew Vonachen, who heads a janitorial firm, Vonachen Services Inc. Schock’s House office account paid nearly $6,000 total for the four flights, according to federal data published online by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation.

Under current House rules, the payments for the private flights would be authorized if they paid for Schock’s portion of each flight. It is not clear from records how many other passengers flew on the same flights. USA Today on Friday first reported potential issues with House ethics rules in revealing some of the flights.

Vonachen and his family donated at least $27,000 to Schock’s campaigns, while Miller contributed $10,000 to the Automotive Free International Trade PAC. Schock has supported recent free trade agreements with South Korea and with several other countries, which the Automotive PAC — a Schock contributor — lauded.

Schock’s reliance on donor-owned planes and on his government allowance to pay for the flights mirrors the use by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., of a private jet owned by a wealthy eye doctor and major donor. Prompted by an ethics investigation, Menendez reimbursed donor Salomon Melgen $58,500 for two flights.

GOP Generation Y paid more than $24,000 for tickets and festivals, including $13,000 to country music events, $4,700 in expenses to Chicago ticket broker, and $3,000 for a “fundraising event” to an organization that runs the Global Citizen Festival in New York.

“You can’t say no when your boss invites you. Danced my butt off,” one former intern posted on his Instagram account with a picture of Perry at her June 2014 show. PAC records show a $1,928 expense for the ticket service two months later, listing it only as a “PAC fundraising event.”

Records show Schock also requested more than $18,000 in mileage reimbursements since 2013, among the highest in Congress. His office has previously said it was reviewing those expenses.


Associated Press writers Kerry Lester in Peoria, Illinois, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.


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Feb 25, 2015
Kim Rivers

Debate continues over food truck ordinance

Debate continues over food truck ordinance

MARQUETTE — If you’ve spent much time in downtown Marquette, you’ve probably seen at least one food truck in the area.

These mobile restaurants are delicious, but regulating them has become a challenge. Owners of food trucks and brick–and–mortar restaurants met today to talk about the issue of a food truck ordinance.

Currently, food trucks are only allowed to operate in public locations if they’re flagged down, and they must move on after serving that customer. They can also serve food in private locations with permission, but they usually have to pay a fee to do so. Some food truck owners feel that these rules favor brick–and–mortar business.

“It’s not the government’s job to ensure that any one particular business succeeds at the expense of another. If it was their job to make sure that any one particular business succeeds, then they need to protect mine also,” said Tom Curry, owner of Rollin’ Smoke Barbeque.

But, the Downtown Development Authority and the Marquette City Commission say that’s not the case. They’re more concerned about parking and congestion issues.

“One of the most important things that we have to remember is that it’s our responsibility to look out for the health and welfare and safety of the community. We could be in a situation where there are a lot of people that have interest in food trucks, you could have a lot of activity on public streets and it’s important that you make sure that you do permit those to operate in a manner that’s safe for the public,” said Dennis Stachewicz, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Marquette.

In order to combat those issues, specific locations for food trucks were discussed, as well as times that food trucks could operate. But certain times and locations that work well for one food truck might not work so well for another.

“I can understand them wanting to regulate congestion, but sometimes in a downtown area, congestion can be a good thing. If there’s not room for someone to park right in front of my food truck or right in front of this restaurant and they have to park a block down the way and walk, they pass several other businesses where they have the opportunity to go in and do business at those stores,” added Curry.

It’s not clear yet how the ordinance will change, but one thing is certain: these food tucks aren’t going anywhere.


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Feb 25, 2015
Kim Rivers

Food truck rodeo on the table for DUSDAC

  • A proposal for a food truck rodeo is awaiting funding and a definite location.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts has begun the contract process to become a Merchant-on-Points and will likely begin delivery within the next few weeks.
  • Duke is in the second round toward becoming peta2’s most vegan-friendly college.

Students may be able to enjoy current favorites and try new dining options free of charge at an upcoming food truck rodeo sponsored by Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee and Duke Student Government.

At their meeting Monday evening, DUSDAC discussed the possibility of hosting a food truck rodeo on campus with the help of funding by DSG. Students who sign up to participate in the food truck rodeo would receive the equivalent of around seven dollars of credit to try at vendors of their choosing. The menu portions would likely be smaller to allow students to sample both old and new food trucks.

DUSDAC co-chair Brian Taylor, a junior, believes that having the food truck rodeo could assist in selecting a new vendor for next semester by introducing students to new options.

“Last year we sent out a survey to gauge student interest in bringing new food trucks to the campus or getting rid of old ones,” Taylor said. “A problem we faced was many people hadn’t tried these food trucks. We’re looking for a way to bridge that gap.”

The proposal, however, remains in its incipient stages. The rodeo is still awaiting funding and a definite location, said DUSDAC co-chair Gregory Lahood, a senior.

Having entertainment such as live music and student performances was also mentioned as a possibility to supplement the food trucks.

In other business:

After filling the final Merchants-on-Points spot, Dunkin’ Donuts has begun the contract process and will likely begin delivery within the next few weeks.

Duke is in the running to become peta2’s most vegan-friendly college. After making it past round one, Duke is among 16 universities in the second round of competition. Students can vote for Duke in round two online until March 4.

The Food Recovery Network—an
organization on college campuses across the country that donates surplus food
to hungry Americans—recently established a chapter on campus and met with
DUSDAC in hopes of expanding its scope. This initiative will recover food from eateries
around campus such as Penn Pavilion, Trinity Cafe and Au Bon Pain and aims to reach out to other vendors.

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Feb 25, 2015
Tim Lester

10 Cities Defined By Street Food

Experimenting with street food is a culinary rite of passage. Whether it’s devouring a tamale at an outdoor market or slurping up noodles in a narrow alleyway, eating on the street is an opportunity to step into another culture in an honest, authentic way. In these 10 cities, street food is not just about discovering mind-blowing dishes; it is an integral part of the social fabric.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai may be smaller than Bangkok, but its street food scene is just as prominent. Chiang Mai’s massive tented markets are a second home to the city’s inhabitants, who eat out for almost every meal. Dining includes juicy mangoes and sticky rice for breakfast, lip-numbing papaya salads for lunch, and snacks like deep-fried bananas and tender pork skewers slathered in a honey-like glaze.

Where to go: Somphet Market, Moon Muang Road, north of Tha Phae Gate; Chiang Mai Gate Market at the Chiang Mai Gate in the southwest corner of the moat; and Intawarorot Road near the Three Kings Monument.

New York City, United States

Nathan’s Famous Photo via Flickr/drpavloff

New York’s street food is seemingly without limits. On one corner, you can get a gourmet bowl of shakshuka, baked with of halumi cheese and chunks of roasted garlic. On the next, there’s authentic Salvadoran pupusas, or corn tortillas stuffed with pork, chicken, shrimp, veggies or cheese. Yet the beauty of New York lies in its age-old institutions, like the quintessential New York hot dog, which, despite more than a century of change, is always just how you remember it.

Where to go: The Shuka Truck , El Olomega , Nathan’s Famous, Korilla BBQ.

Mumbai, India

At meal time, businessmen, shopkeepers and laborers crowd around the same vendors along Mumbai’s long stretches of food stalls. The majority of food is vegetarian, as most people are practicing Hindus. Popular dishes include potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and peas in a fragrant curry sauce, scooped up with naan; and vada pav, a deep-fried potato cutlet made with fresh coriander and green chilies, served on a bun. Every meal is finished off with a shot-size cup of chai, and occasionally paan—a triangle-shaped digestive, stuffed with candied fruit, cardamom, saffron, roasted coconut and lime paste and wrapped in betel leaf.

Where to go: Vendors along Juhu Beach and Chowpatty Beach; Elco Market in the Bandra neighborhood; Crawford Market near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station; Badhshah Snacks int the Crawford Market; Ashok Vada Pav in Dadar West neighborhood.

Marrakech, Morocco

Jemaa el-Fna Photo via Flickr/Mark Rowland

Souks (markets) have been the hotbed of Moroccan culture for centuries. At night, the city’s main squares transform into an army of food vendors wrapped in spiced clouds of smoke coming off of piping hot tagine and shawarma. The chaotic but thrilling Jemaa el-Fna, the city’s largest souk and a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been in action for nearly 900 years. This is the prime spot for dinner for locals and tourists alike. You’ll find dishes like tender lamb roasted in cumin and salt and escargot dripping with garlic sauce alongside snake charmers and tarot card readers.

Where to go: Jemaa el-Fna, Medina Quarterin the Old City.


In Singapore, hawker markets (massive dining centers made up of food stalls) are the equalizer between foreign wealth and local-wage earners. The vendors, which used to operate individually on streets, are required by law to be a part of these larger markets. Some comprise more than 200 food stalls The food is a mix of Singapore’s Chinese, Indian and Malay influences, including char kway teow, a stir fry of flat rice noodles cooked on high heat with dark soy sauce, egg, Chinese sausage, prawns, cockles and sliced fish cake; and roti, the soft and crisp Indian flatbread served with curry; and barbecue stingray.

Where to go: Old Airport Road Food Centre Old Airport Road; Singapore Flyer, 30 Raffles Avenue; East Coast Lagoon Food Centre, 1220 East Coast Parkway.

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Feb 25, 2015
Kim Rivers

Top-Rated New York City Food Truck Cinnamon Snail to Shut Down

Customers lined up in Midtown on Monday outside the vegan food truck Cinnamon Snail, which said it will shut down at the end of the week.

On Saturday, in the middle of a blizzard, college students waited for more than an hour in a line down the block. On Monday, Midtown office workers spent their lunch hours lining up in freezing temperatures.

The prize wasn’t a free television or tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. It was tempeh sandwiches, lentil burgers and vegan doughnuts.

The Cinnamon Snail, a vegan food truck that beat out all the city’s fine dining spots to be at one time its most highly rated food establishment on Yelp, is shutting down regular operations at the end of this week. The truck’s permit expired and the owners were unable to renew it.

Adam Sobel,

the 32-year-old owner, said that meeting the expectations of clients who have risked frostbite for their lunch can be challenging.

“If the food isn’t the best thing in their life, they’re going to kill you on Yelp,” he said.

On Monday at lunch, many office workers said they came every week when the truck parked near Rockefeller Center. It was a break, they said, from otherwise dreary lunchtime offerings of microwaved leftovers and choose-your-own salads.

“It was a way to make Monday happy,” said

Micol Hiatt,

a 38-year-old employee at Nickelodeon, who stood in line for at least an hour on Monday. She planned to order the lemon grass five-spice seitan with curried cashews, Sichuan chili sauce and wasabi mayonnaise.

In February 2014, the food truck was the top New York City establishment and fourth in the U.S. on Yelp’s list of places to try based on the rating and number of reviews. To be sure, crowdsourced online reviews are just one way to measure quality.

Mr. Sobel said the city’s rules concerning food vending permits led to his decision to shut down the ‘Snail.’ The city issues 3,100 two-year permits to mobile food vendors, and the wait to get a new permit can take 15 to 20 years, according to advocates for the industry.

That has given rise to what amounts to an illegal market of permit holders selling permits to food vendors for significantly more than the $200 the city charges for trucks that make food on-site.

Mr. Sobel said that when his permit expired, he felt the terms the permit broker was offering seemed too good to be true.

The Street Vendor Project, an advocacy group, estimates that three-quarters of permits are obtained on the illegal market.

“We should have the best food trucks in America, but we don’t. The one thing holding us back is poor regulation,” said David Weber, president of the New York City Food Truck Association.

A spokeswoman for City Council Speaker

Melissa Mark-Viverito

said Ms. Mark-Viverito supported changes in the permit system and that the council was reviewing options to create more opportunities for vendors.

Dan Biederman,

president of two Midtown business improvement districts—the 34th Street Partnership and the Bryant Park Corp.—said the city should accept bids for the permits rather raising the cap on the number of permits. He said he was concerned about encouraging more mobile food joints to open. He said food carts—as opposed to food trucks—were unsightly, disruptive and took up valuable sidewalk space.

For his part, Mr. Sobel said that he planned to hang onto the truck and perhaps pull up at special events or serve food in New Jersey.

He began cooking as a teenager to prepare, better food for his now-wife, a vegan who he said was subsisting on canned soup and french fries.

While operating a restaurant in the city can be a struggle, Mr. Sobel said operating a food truck had its own challenges. He pays about $7,000 a month for a kitchen space in Brooklyn, where bakers work all night to prepare the next day’s pastries.

Mr. Sobel’s inbox has been flooded with information about spaces for a brick-and-mortar operation. He said he was interested in renting a space once he has taken time off to think. He also has a cookbook coming out in May called “Street Vegan.”

The recipes may dispel the wishful thinking of anyone who has tried one of Mr. Sobel’s vanilla bourbon crème brûlée doughnuts and perhaps has mused whether its lack of animal products made it somehow healthy.

“It’s deep-fried dough,” he said. “Even though it’s vegan, it’s deep-fried dough.”

Write to Laura Kusisto at

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Feb 25, 2015
Tim Lester

Real street food: Pepián from Guatemala

What is the dish?

Pepián – a traditional meaty, spicy stew that many see as our national dish, found on street food carts, in diners and home kitchens.

What’s the history?

Pepián is one of the oldest dishes in Guatemalan food heritage, borne out of the fusion of the Spanish and Mayan cultures. It is also quite possibly the most famous Guatemalan stew, a recados as we say in Guatemala, or what I call a Mayan curry.

What does it taste like?

It’s thick and rich, with a wealth of roasted spices blended together. Most often it contains meat; chicken, beef or pork. It’s a bit bitter because of the roasting of the ingredients prior to the blending and cooking.

How is it served?

Pepián is normally served with one meat, but you can have a full three-meat version. It always contains vegetables and fruits – such as pear, squash, carrot, potato and corn on the cob.

Anything extra?

Usually street food vendors serve it with rice and freshly made corn tortillas. Hot chilli sauce or peppers are normally an option too.

Why should someone try it?

You should try Pepián because it is so representative of Guatemalan food, along with Kakik, which is a turkey stew.

What’s the bill?

Pepián can be found in most street markets, as well as diners and restaurants serving typical Guatemalan food. The bill will vary from $2-3 in the market to $5-15 in restaurants around my home town, Antigua.

Where can you get it?

My favourite spots to eat it in Antigua are the Rincón Típico diner and the restaurants Los Tres Tiempos, La Fonda de la Calle Real and La Cuevita de los Urquizú.

Can you make it at home?

Yes – try my traditional recipe below. Pepián is prepared several times a month in most Guatemalan homes.

What does this dish say about Antigua?

Pepián shows how Mayan and Spanish culture have blended together over the years, and gives a taste of the heritage of both.

Recipe for Pepián

(Serves 6)

1 whole chicken, jointed, or 8 pieces of chicken, skin on

3 medium onions, 1 quartered, 2 whole

1 heaped tbsp salt

2 guaque (guajillo) chillies, dried, deseeded

2 pasa (poblano/mulato) chillies, dried and deseeded

115g raw pumpkin seeds (pepitoria)

115g sesame seeds

6 large black peppercorns

6 cloves

3 large garlic cloves

1 small bunch coriander

9 roma/plum tomatoes, around 500g

1 tbsp dried oregano

1⁄2 stick cinnamon

1 quisquil (mirliton/chayote) or squash

500g potatoes or root vegetables

  1. Put the chicken in a large pot, covering it with roughly 3 litres of water, so the chicken is covered. Add the salt and the quartered onion to the water while the chicken boils.
  2. While the chicken is boiling, roast the dried chillies over a medium heat in a dry frying pan until fragrant. Once roasted, crumble chillies into a mixing bowl; all roasted ingredients will be combined in this bowl so make sure it’s large enough.
  3. Next, toast the raw pumpkin seeds in the same pan, then add to the mixing bowl. Toast the sesame seeds until golden. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Put one whole onion with 6-8 black whole peppercorns and 6 cloves plus the garlic cloves, in the pan, then toast until golden and mix with the seeds.
  5. Toast fresh coriander the same as the other ingredients. This will become very fragrant. Add to mixing bowl.
  6. Next, roast the tomatoes until blackened and soft, then add to the other ingredients.
  7. Finally, toast 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and the cinnamon, then add to mixing bowl.
  8. In a separate bowl, cut peeled potatoes into large chunks. Cut quisquil into thick slices and peel. Cut remaining onion into chunks. These will be added to the chicken pot once chicken is mostly cooked.
  9. Combine all roasted ingredients and add 750ml water. Whizz in a blender to combine fully. Add the mixture to the chicken pot. Continue cooking at a rolling boil until the sauce reduces, add the vegetable and cook until tender. The sauce is typically thin like a soup. This dish can be served in a bowl as a stand alone meal or with rice. Typical Guatemalan style include rice or tortillas.

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