Three chefs hailing from places as far-flung as Southeast Asia and the southern United States recently opened food trucks in Vancouver to share cuisine from their hometowns.
If you’re willing to venture off the beaten path, you will be rewarded by tender chicken coated in toasted garlic, velvety Cincinnati chili entwined in spaghetti noodles, or big steaming bowls of plump shrimp and cheesy grits.
WanSook Thai Food
1919 Main St.; 360-818-3728; wansookthaifood.com
Wanna Hardin opened WanSook Thai Food with her husband, David, a couple of months ago.
To find WanSook, park anywhere near Doomsday Brewing Safe House, close your eyes, and follow the smell of garlic to the green food truck. WanSook means “Friday” in Thai, a good description of the feeling you get from eating Wanna Hardin’s food.
“Wanna cooks the food the way she used to cook and eat every day – morning, lunch and dinner – growing up in Thailand. She never has specific recipes. Just cooks by feeling,” David Hardin said.
The garlic chicken combines tender chunks of meat with a heavy dose of garlic and black pepper. The bold ingredients in this dish are properly tempered by fluffy jasmine rice and a side of stir-fried veggies – tender broccoli, carrots and cabbage.
A simple veggie stir-fry with tofu and rice draped in a light but flavorful sauce and mixed with velvety slices of oyster mushrooms elevates a healthy dish into something that’s satisfying. The key to both these meals, according to Wanna Hardin, is to use the freshest ingredients and cook with fresh garlic at very high temperatures.
Slow Fox Chili Parlor
108 E. Seventh St.; 360-721-0634; slowfoxchili.com
Farther down Main Street, Derek Saner, formerly of Screen Door in Portland, opened a chili parlor in honor of his hometown of Cincinnati.
Slow Fox Chili Parlor in the Columbia Food Park always has Cincinnati five-way chili on the menu. The specials change frequently, based on Saner’s culinary imagination and the seasonal produce he sources from local farms. Call the food truck to ask about the day’s specials.
Regularly popping up on the specials menu are Saner’s hearty sandwiches on bolillo bread from Veracruz Bay Taqueria and Bakery. The crusty, short baguettelike rolls are ideal for soaking up meat juices and the vinegary runoff from slaws. Saner recently filled the rolls with chile-braised pulled pork with a spicy coleslaw and serrano-ginger glazed pork belly with jicama-apple slaw.
Veracruz Bay Taqueria and Bakery also makes special bread bowls for Slow Fox’s new Lindy’s Bread Bowl Special. Orders come with a choice of chili ranging from Ray’s Red, a classic ground beef chili, to Louie’s Lentils with yam and kale. Diners get to choose one topping – simple things like shredded cheddar cheese or diced onions, or more complex condiments like pickled red onions, garlic aioli or citrus slaw.
Southern Girl Delights
1015 N.E. 78th St.; 678-860-1567
In Hazel Dell, Dorothy Golson serves generous portions of Southern food from her red-and-white checkered food truck, Southern Girl Delights. Golson owned a catering business for years. Fortunately, she planned on opening a food truck before the pandemic. As gatherings were canceled and her catering business dried up, she added more hours at her food truck.
Southern Girl Delights’ short menu is filled with treasures not often found in the Pacific Northwest – shrimp and grits, fried catfish, pimento cheese sandwiches, as well as cornbread waffles filled with cheddar cheese, sweet corn and jalape~no peppers. Specials such as collard greens and cornbread, peanut-butter cookies and pound cake rotate, and are posted on the cart’s Facebook page. Everything is made to order. Plan on waiting or order ahead by phone.
Golson learned to cook by following her mom around in the kitchen. She still makes grits, the cornmeal batter for catfish, peanut-butter cookies and pound cake just like her mother taught her as a girl.
The shrimp and grits comes with a swirl of plump shrimp, smoked beef sausage, and bits of saut’eed green peppers and onions over a generous bed of cheesy grits sprinkled with Cajun seasoning. The grits – a fluffy cloud of creamy corn meal so heavily infused with melted cheese that long strands of cheese cling to the fork with every bite – fill the large container. Golson chose to use smoked beef sausage instead of the traditional andouille to make this popular dish available to customers who don’t eat pork. She had her friends and family try a variety of sausages. They preferred the smoked beef sausage that Golson now uses in this dish.
For the fried okra, small rounds of okra with a light corn meal crust are deep fried to golden brown. They’re tender inside and crunchy on the outside. Fried okra is listed as a side, but a mountain of food fills the takeout box. As Golson slides this massive portion of okra out of the window into your hands, it seems impossible that anyone could eat it all. Somehow these highly addictive crunchy bits disappear quickly. Ranch dressing isn’t served with fried okra in the south. Golson quickly learned that Vancouver customers love to dip everything in ranch so she offered it with this side dish.
Like all of the best food truck owners, Dorothy Golson can get your entire life story, make you feel at home, and cook a delicious feast all at the same time. Recently, a customer told Golson that she needs to charge more for her shrimp and grits. He told her that on The Waterfront an order of shrimp and grits would be much smaller, cost more, and not taste as good.
Despite this advice, Golson said she isn’t changing the portions or the prices. It’s important to her that her food stays affordable.
“I didn’t think about portion size,” she said, “because in the South we feed you on a platter not a plate.”