Long gone are the days when food trucks were only known for cheap and unhealthy snack foods. Seattle is following in the footsteps of cities like Los Angeles and Portland in its escalation of trucks that feature gourmet dining on-the-go.
And Asian dining is also rolling its wheels into the scene.
May Wong, owner of Chopstix Mobile, said food trucks are a “booming business in Seattle right now.” Her food truck will be one of many parked on the streets at the Chinatown/International District Dragon Fest street festival on July 14-15.
“A food truck has lower costs and we can drive it to anywhere the customer needs us to be. It’s exciting,” said Wong. She worked in brick and mortar restaurants in Hong Kong for many years before launching Chopstix Mobile which specializes in Asian fusion food.
“We’re trying to bring an Asian influence into western cooking. It’s a fusion so it’s easy for people to accept,” said Wong.
Popular items on the menu are the Asian pull pork sandwich and the Peking duck taco. The taco is made with plum slaw and Chinese barbeque mayo on a corn tortilla. The price range is between $2.50 and $9 for small portions.
In addition to many Asian-inspired sandwiches, there are varieties of pasta and pot stickers available.
Another popular food to be found at Dragon Fest is fresh takoyaki. Popular in food stalls on the streets of Japan, this savory food is the specialty of Tako Kyuuban.
The size of a golf ball, takoyaki is fried octopus (tako). Inside the dumpling is green onion, pickled ginger, shrimp and tempura bits. It is served with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo. An order of four of the traditional snack costs $4.
“Part of takoyaki is watching the person make it,” said owner Don Lee. “It’s not just the experience of eating but also watching the person creating the little balls.”
Tako Kyuuban operates a booth at the Bellevue Uwajimaya several times a month when they aren’t selling at events.
If you’re looking for a healthier and meatless option, drop into the Loving Hut. With a restaurant location on South Jackson Street, the vegan eatery will be available at Dragon Fest, too. Restaurant owner Victor Huynh founded the Loving Hut about a year ago. He labels his food as healthy, organic and vegan pan-Asian cuisine. Popular items are the golden egg rolls filled with jicama, tofu, carrots, taro and mung bean. The menu also includes soups, noodles and many stir-fried vegetable dishes.
Huynh said the mobile food industry, while popular, isn’t easy and comes with just as many challenges as a restaurant. His peers agree.
“There’s a perception that it’s cheap to operate and that the food should be super cheap,” said food truck owner Samson Kwong. “It’s actually very expensive to operate and we’re offering the same quality food as a brick and mortar.”
Kwong said the “neat concept” and “growing market” allowed him and friend Eugene Woo to pursue their passion for food in addition to their day jobs.
Their brainchild, Tokyo Dog—is a Japanese-style gourmet hot dog cart. They offer five standard hot dogs that incorporate different flavors of Asia, including a vegetarian option and the Tokyo Dog, a smoked cheddar bratwurst. In addition, there’s the Shibuya, a beef frank decorated with sautéed onion and miso mayo.
While the sausages are 100 percent German-style bratwurst from Bavarian meats, the toppings are Japanese-centric: bonito blakes, nori, teriyaki sauce, wasabi mayo and miso mayo, to name a few. There are also side offerings of shoestring fries with three different types of sauces. Look for the bright yellow truck with its emblematic Godzilla hot dog animation that will be stationed at Dragon Fest. The price for a frank is about $7.
“Coming from a tech background, we don’t have tons of insight into the restaurant industry,” said Kwong. But he said that everyone in food trucks has been “super supportive.”
“Hearing ‘that hot dog was the best hot dog is the best hot dog I’ve ever had’ is really rewarding,” he said.
Sample these snacks for yourself! Check out these food trucks at the Chinatown/ID Dragon Fest on July 14-15! View pages 9-11 for the Program Guide.