By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
My, how far the food truck has come. It’s easy to forget its humble beginnings now that Portland and a growing number of other cities boast a flashy fleet of rolling kitchens that serve up a variety of world cuisines. Some even narrow their focus to one specific type of food, like the potato or egg. But up until the last 10-15 years, it’s likely the only ingestible you’d been purchasing from a moving vehicle was frozen and accompanied by a melodic chime. Food trucks from a former time weren’t so popular. They could often be spotted on the edges of parking lots belonging to extended stay motels or sputtering down the freeway to get to the next construction site for the lunch hour. The transient nature of these eateries was underscored — many were constantly chasing down a customer base.
Nothing could be further from that illustration now. Individual food trucks have a following. People use social media to track down their favorites if they move from spot to spot. Chefs have gained notoriety. And now, much to the relief of beer drinkers, food truck and cart pods serve craft brew. Given the perfectly Portland pairing, it seemed inevitable that one of our monthly Brew Bites columns would highlight the two.
Food trucks are also included in the state’s largest annual culinary event: The Bite of Oregon, which also benefits Special Olympics Oregon. The carts featured here, Little Boba Truck and PDX Sliders, were at the festival of food and shared some of their recipes for our readers. All of the beers in the suggested pairings were poured at The Bite as well. While the summer event season is surely winding down at this point, the dishes from the carts will keep the fest feeling going a little bit longer if you recreate them at home.
Little Boba Truck got started when chef and owner Michelle Tae couldn’t find any high quality boba tea (her love) in Portland. The former teacher and stay-at-home mom now shares her passion for the drink from the corner of Southwest Walker Road and 123rd Avenue in Beaverton, where her truck shares the lot with The Garage Sale Warehouse. At The Bite, you could also order kimchi pancakes with perilla leaves and Taiwanese salt-and-pepper chicken. This combination features food from both Tae and her husband’s Chinese and Korean cultures.
The chicken is served as crunchy popcorn-like bites, where the sweetness of the light batter is immediately evident without being overwhelming. Meanwhile, the pancake is used to display the briny, pickled tones of the cabbage without bringing the heat of a typical kimchi. Many Asian late-night, street-style snacks tend to go well with light beer — something effervescent to scrub the palate of the foods’ fatty richness, like Base Camp Brewing Company’s In-Tents IPL or Ecliptic’s Spica Pilsner. Food writer and speaker at The Bite, Steven Shomler, also suggested Lompoc Brewing’s Saison de L’Evolution.
PDX Sliders, a truck that started in January 2014, approached the food scene with sharable dishes in mind. Chef and owner Ryan Rollins said he noticed many outlets make burgers whose portion size never seems to stop growing over time. And even those customers who get the leftovers to go often forget about them in the back of the fridge until it’s too late, resulting in waste. At PDX Sliders, one meal could feasibly consist of several small sandwiches, offering variety without the “loosen-your-belt” feeling when finished.
Rollins served the Tilikum slider at The Bite since he reasoned that not many places in Portland make a fried chicken sandwich to order. The crunchy, rich chicken was a nice contrast to the sweet, creamy slaw. The sandwich’s tangy barbecue sauce could play well with the citrus flavors in an IPA, such as Lompoc’s Pamplemousse. Steven Shomler recommended the Ninkasi Lux Lager, which has a crispness that would stand up to the chicken without overwhelming the subtler flavors.
Inevitably, the rain and colder temperatures will arrive with fall — meaning it won’t always be ideal to visit your favorite food trucks. But you now have access to some of their recipes if your taste buds need a reminder of the flavors of summer.
Little Boba Truck’s kimchi pancakes with perilla leaves and Taiwanese crunchy popcorn-like chicken bites would find a good partner in a light beer — something like an IPL or a pilsner. An effervescent brew would help scrub the palate of the fatty richness that tends to come with many Asian late-night, street-style snacks.
Kimchi Pancakes with Perilla Leaves &
Taiwanese Salt-and-Pepper Chicken
Paired With Base Camp Brewing Company’s In-Tents IPL or
Lompoc Brewing’s Saison de L’Evolution
By Chef Michelle Tae
For kimchi pancakes and perilla leaves:
2 cups chopped kimchi (can be bought at any local Korean store)
6 tablespoons kimchi juice
4 tablespoons chopped white onions
5 stalk green onions
8 perilla leaves (sesame leaves, also bought at any local Korean store)
1 cup tempura mix (you can use all-purpose flour, but the secret to getting it crispy is tempura batter mix)
1/2 cup water
—Mix all ingredients in bowl.
—Heat a 12-inch, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Pour some oil into pan.
—Pour mixture into pan and spread thinly and evenly.
—Cook for 1-1 1/2 minutes until the bottom gets golden and crispy.
—Turn it over with a spatula.
—Lower the heat to medium and cook other side for 1 1/2 minutes.
—Turn over one more time and heat other side for 30 seconds.
—Serve either straight out of pan or cool it down before cutting it into bite sizes.
For taiwanese salt-and-pepper chicken:
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch bite sizes
Fresh Thai basil leaves (optional)
Five spice powder
Sweet potato flour or potato starch
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
—Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes.
—Mix egg in bowl. Dip chicken in egg and then cover with flour.
—Deep fry chicken 2 times. During the second time, add basil leaves (make sure leaves are thoroughly dried).
—Season chicken with salt, white pepper and five spice powder.
Tilikum Buttermilk-Fried Chicken Sandwich
Paired with Lompoc Brewing Pamplemousse Citrus IPA or
Ninkasi Lux Lager
By Chef Ryan Rollins
1/2 cup rice vinegar
—Season a couple of cups of flour with desired spices.
—Soak chicken tenderloins in buttermilk.
—Cut cabbage and cilantro for slaw.
—Mix equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream with two tanks powdered sugar and rice vinegar. Mix that with the cabbage.
—Fry chicken at 375 degrees until golden brown.
—Toast bun, put down slaw on bun, place fried chicken and spread on your favorite barbecue sauce.
Monthly recipes and pairings from your favorite brewpubs around Oregon.