Up­wardly mo­bile

Van­cou­ver’s food truck scene is hot to trot

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Canada - CHRIS­TINE McCABE

Van­cou­ver is Canada’s food cap­i­tal and it all be­gins on the city streets where more than 130 food trucks ply their trade with plenty to tempt hun­gry visi­tors, from Berk­shire pork hot dogs and wild-caught, hot smoked salmon to old-fash­ioned cheese sand­wiches. There’s even an Aussie pie cart.

“We’ve got the liveli­est food truck scene in North Amer­ica be­hind Port­land, Ore­gon, and Austin, Texas,” our Van­cou­ver Foodie guide Lisa says as we stride up Bur­rard Street, all set to tuck into top-notch nosh turned out from kitchens barely larger than a ta­ble nap­kin. It’s a re­stric­tion that doesn’t faze the team at Soho Road, who’ve man­aged to cram two tan­door ovens into a teeny car­a­van.

Van­cou­ver Foodie Tours op­er­ates two-hour daily walk­ing tours of the city’s mo­bile food scene be­tween April and the end of Novem­ber en­abling visi­tors to ex­plore the var­ied culi­nary of­fer­ings of one of the most mul­ti­cul­tural cities on earth. Our small group meets on the cor­ner of Bur­rard and Smithe streets where the food truck revo­lu­tion be­gan a decade ago when for­mer Toyko ad sales­man Noriki Ta­mura and his wife Misa launched the now fa­mous Japadog van. The Ta­muras made the move to Van­cou­ver to open a creperie, only to dis­cover that a cu­ri­ous city by­law re­stricted the sale of street food to hot dogs. So the Ta­muras got busy pimp­ing the North Amer­i­can sausage-in-a-bun stal­wart and, af­ter win­ning a down­town spot for their van through an an­nual street food lottery, were an in­stant hit. They of­fer some pretty weird but rather won­der­ful sausage vari­a­tions: salmon, shrimp tem­pura, tur­key, even a deep-fried bun filled with ice-cream. The sig­na­ture Berk­shire pork va­ri­ety, topped with fried onion, Ja­panese mayo, sea­weed flakes and teriyaki sauce, is a huge im­prove­ment on your run-of-themill hot dog.

Japadog is now a city in­sti­tu­tion with five trucks and a shop front as well as off­shoots in Los An­ge­les, where the weather is rather more de­pend­able for al fresco cater­ers and queu­ing din­ers.

The suc­cess of the Ta­muras her­alded a re­lax­ing of the “hot dog-only” by­laws in the lead-up to Van­cou­ver’s 2010 Win­ter Olympics with food ven­dors of ev­ery culi­nary per­sua­sion lin­ing up to se­cure a down­town spot. Ac­cess to the streets is still strictly con­trolled; Lisa says new ap­pli­cants must un­dergo a for­mal re­view process that in­cludes a panel of judges com­pris­ing chefs, food blog­gers and lo­cal busi­ness op­er­a­tors.

Early suc­cess­ful can­di­dates in­cluded Cindy Hamil­ton, who cut her teeth cater­ing on the set of Kill Bill. Want­ing to spend more time with her daugh­ter, she set up Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck. We find Hamil­ton’s pretty van parked just off Rob­son Square near the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery (a sec­ond van has just launched on West Cor­dova Street) where her cheer­ful kitchen team is busy dis­pens­ing sim­ple com­fort food and some pretty fancy grilled sand­wiches. The most pop­u­lar is a fist­ful: home­made meat­loaf, moz­zarella and mari­nara sauce on crusty bread. Or you might pre­fer The Fat Elvis: peanut but­ter and banana sprin­kled with smoked sea salt. Sen­si­bly we opt for the clas­sic ched­dar on sour­dough, served with a fat pickle and home-made crisps, all washed down with yummy ginger-and-mint lemon­ade.

Next stop, the cor­ner of Rob­son and Granville streets, where The Ka­boom Box spe­cialises in lo­cally sourced, sus­tain­able fare, such as or­ganic greens, Gulf Is­land oys­ters and wild-caught salmon, hot smoked in the tiny van. The sock­eye is de­li­cious, served along­side a salad sprin­kled with can­died al­monds and cran­ber­ries. There’s also a veni­son burger and Oys­ter Po’Boy: lo­cal oys­ters panko coated, fried and served in a burger bun with home-made tartare. There’s also a ver­sion of that cu­ri­ous Que­bec spe­cial­ity, pou­tine, or chips and cheese curds topped with gravy.

By now our small in­ter­na­tional group is feel­ing rather re­plete and it’s be­come ap­par­ent our un­hur­ried stroll be­tween trucks is likely to off­set no more than a few kilo­joules (be sure to skip break­fast and make no plans for din­ner). You don’t want to miss the but­ter chicken at the tiny, smok­ing-hot Soho Road Naan Ke­bab at 700 West Ge­or­gia. The name says it all, but­ter or tan­doori chicken (or lamb or veg­etable) wrapped in a de­li­cious fluffy,

Van­cou­ver’s leg­endary Ta­cofino food truck, left; Cindy Hamil­ton at her Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck, be­low

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