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Putting The ‘Desi’ In The Food Truck Story

Posted: June 20, 2012

Food trucks recreate a bit of home with their quick, fuss-free and delicious meals. We ‘desis’ want more of them!

By Salima Jivraj

This article was originally published at Masala Mommas.

Does ‘gourmet food truck’ sound like an oxymoron? Go back about ten years and perhaps, but the culinary trend of gourmet mobile street food is giving meals on wheels a whole new meaning.

A huge craze in the US, thanks to television shows such as Eat Street, food trucks are offering a plethora of cuisine styles and flavours and bringing quality foods that are affordable to urban centres, festivals and fairs. While Canada is still fairly new to the scene, creative and energetic new food trucks are steadily emerging each year despite rigid by-laws.

A more cost effective alternative to owning a bricks and mortar restaurant, food trucks are giving food-minded entrepreneurs a lucrative venture. Also, with consistently popular South Asian cuisine, owning a food truck that serves dishes from the Indian subcontinent is proving to be a big hit. How great would it be for us moms to have freshly cooked and authentic Indian food waiting for us outside our office entrance at lunch time?!

In the US, Curry Up Now, the Bay Area’s first Indian street food on a mobile truck is inspired from street foods in India and Indian foods popular in other parts of the world. They aim to bring the street foods of Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, Chowpatty, Mumbai, New Market, Kolkata, elite boarding school (Sem, Sherwood, Sonn & All Saints) town of Nainital, Uttarkhand to their customers in America.

The Desi Food Truck, based in New York City serves up Kati Rolls, Puri Bhaji and Haleem. When asked about their inspiration for starting their truck, owner Alamgeer conveyed, “lack of tasty Indian street foods in my beloved city, NYC and being mobile to reach into different neighbourhoods to offer these tasty Indian foods not available in over 90% of desi restaurants all over.

Also in the US, Bollywood Bites, founded by Sanjay Patel of Los Angeles, classifies themselves as a mobile catering company and even takes kosher, halal and gluten free requests. Serving up classic South Asian cuisine, Patel is known amongst top celebrities and athletes for his delicious meals. To the new truckers, Sanjay’s advice is, “Only get into it if you have real passion for it as it requires a lot of devotion, you need to be ready to stand and work inside the truck for at least 15-16 hours a day. You cannot run your truck business depending on other cooks or any one, you need to be top of everything.”­­­

It doesn’t stop there – all around America there are a number of gourmet trucks serving up unique and classic South Asian or South Asian inspired foods. But where are we just north of the border in my hometown of Toronto? Quite frankly — nowhere. Although there are many interesting trucks like vegetarian Portobello Burger, we’re still far away from where we should be.

The current issue for us in Toronto, Canada is that there are by-laws set up that make it difficult for trucks and stationary stands to actually start up and operate. Given the diversity of our city we should have one of the most vibrant street food scenes in North America. Enter the fine folks at Torontofoodtrucks.ca who are working hard to give the people a voice with social media to communicate their dismay directly to various city councillors. This movement is appropriately titled as The Toronto Street Food Project.

The Toronto Street Food Project is a social media based movement to encourage our city councillors to change these by-laws to allow for this industry growth. What does that mean for Toronto and the rest of Canada? With these restrictions removed or relaxed, we are giving room for an emerging new species of dining which will highlight our city’s beautiful diversity, offer a great opportunity for budding entrepreneurs and set a precedent for other cities in Canada who may face similar restraints.

Live in Toronto and want to join the movement? Visit the action page to find out how you can help.

*Photo credit: JMR_Photography (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

About The Author: Salima Jivraj is a Food Writer. She can be found on Twitter @halal_foodie.

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