Friday, February 12, 2010
'...you can't miss it - that is if you're looking for it...and believe me...YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR IT.'
I love street food. Yeah - you heard me - street food. You know...street vendors. Hot dog carts, taco carts, pretzel stands - that sort of thing. I don't think we celebrate street food enough in the U.S., let alone here in SLC, UT. Personally I feel like food always tastes better when you're outside in the fresh air anyway...and there's something communal and almost intimate about the food cart experience - whether its standing huddled around in line with strangers waiting to place your order or parking it on a nearby bench or sidewalk to eat with friends. So I was really excited to see the Chow truck in SLC, a new venture where moving taco truck meets gourmet Asian cuisine.
The Chow truck is a food truck reminiscent of most taco trucks found on the street or lunch trucks found on construction sites. This truck however is bright yellow, so you can't miss it - that is if you're looking for it...and believe me...YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR IT. At first glance you could be at any other lunch truck in the state, with an ice bar up front holding a variety of drinks and other candy bars and such to grab, but as you glance through the menu you see that you are indeed in for a unique dining experience. You won't see any boxed up turkey sandwiches here as the menu represents casual street food with a gourmet twist; instead, think Asian tacos. You order through a small plastic window where owner of the Chow truck, SuAn Chow, takes your order. On this day, we tried the spicy beef tacos, the pineapple-ginger pork tacos, the fried root chips, and the special of the day which was a pulled pork quesadilla with a mole sauce. As we ordered we could see Chef Rosanne Ruiz (formerly of Vinto) in the truck's tiny little kitchen putting our orders together...and the food came out in a flash.
To put it bluntly - the spicy beef tacos were amazing. Often times for me, tacos are all about texture rather than taste, but not this time - the flavor in this taco was very pronounced. The beef was tender and savory with a hint of heat. This blended well with the cool slaw and the crunchy topping of fried wonton strips. The cilantro pesto really tied the whole thing together nicely offering a blast of brightness. It was like eating a Southeast Asian taco which was somehow oddly American. It was absolutely delicious...all packed into one little taco. The pork tacos were also quite good with flavors a little less pronounced - more hints than distinct flavors of ginger for example, with some sweetness from the pineapple bits on top. However, the flavors weren't too subtle that you couldn't taste anything, but present enough so that you didn't feel like you were just eating something ambiguously crunchy.
Speaking of crunchy, the root chips provided a really nice alternative to plain potato or tortilla chips. The chips consisted of a mixture of fried yukon golds, purple potatoes, carrots, yams, beets, and lotus root. Each chip had a distinct flavor, some sweeter than others, some more savory but each with a distinctive crispness as well. We rounded our meal off with the special of the day - a pork quesadilla served with a mole sauce, cucumber salsa, and cilantro pesto. The pulled pork in mole provided a deep, rich, meaty flavor in contrast to the bright flavors in the tacos. The mole did tend to overpower the other subtle flavors of the dish but such is the case with mole.
The Chow truck menu is small and focused with variations of their 5 main tacos in slider or salad versions. It being a truck and all, the Chow truck moves from location to location but you can track where it will be via their website or by twitter. Or you can JUST LOOK FOR IT as you're driving and drop by for an impromptu lunch or dinner. Street food is a widely celebrated tradition in most parts of the world from Latin America to Europe to Japan or India...with vendors selling food specific to their respective lands. But as unique as the food in every place is, the locals share one common feature - they will always know which carts serve the best food. And I think I've just found the best damn taco truck in SLC.
Chow truck ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
Currently hosted at these locations: Trolley Square, Twilight Lounge, Eggs in the City, Key Bank, and REI
Owner: SuAn Chow
Chef: Rosanne Ruiz