Sand­wich bread rubbed with tomato, a juicy touch

Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - By Jenn Har­ris jenn.har­ris@la­times.com In­sta­gram: @Jen­n_Har­ris_

Vic­tor and Sy­bil Ro­quin moved to Los An­ge­les in 2016 to fol­low the mod­ern Amer­i­can dream — also known as quit­ting your day job to open a food truck. Sy­bil, a for­mer busi­ness con­sul­tant from Barcelona, Spain, and her hus­band, Vic­tor, a French­man who worked on sus­tain­able devel­op­ment is­sues for the food in­dus­try, had been liv­ing in Paris for more than a decade when they de­cided to make a ca­reer switch based on a shared love of Cata­lan food. They spent the next couple of months in Barcelona, talk­ing to lo­cal chefs, eating, drink­ing wine and work­ing on their recipes be­fore pack­ing up and mov­ing to L.A. to launch the Tu­maca food truck late last year.

“When we de­cided to leave ev­ery­thing be­hind and jump into the un­known, our family and friends thought we were to­tally nuts — and we thought that they may be right,” said Vic­tor. “One year later, only one thing is sure. Start­ing this crazy ad­ven­ture was the best de­ci­sion in our life.”

The truck is named af­ter pa amb tu­maca, also known as pan con to­mate. The sim­ple dish orig­i­nated in the Cat­alo­nia re­gion of Spain and con­sists of a slice of bread — some­times toasted or grilled, some­times not — that has been rubbed with a ripe tomato so that the juices seep into the top layer of the bread, soft­en­ing it just so and adding a fresh tomato fla­vor.

Pa amb tu­maca is typ­i­cally fin­ished with a driz­zle of olive oil, some salt and maybe some ham. This com­bi­na­tion serves as the core of the fla­vor pro­file for most ev­ery­thing on the truck.

“There are, of course, a few Span­ish restau­rants [in L.A.], but this is noth­ing com­pared to other cui­sine in­flu­ences from Asia, Mex­ico or even Europe,” said Vic­tor. “There is still a lot to be done to pro­mote and give a more mod­ern twist to this some­times over­looked but fla­vor­ful and di­verse cui­sine.”

The couple now spend their days on a fire-en­gine-red food truck dol­ing out al­most-tra­di­tional ver­sions of ex­cel­lent bo­cadil­los, cro­que­tas and patatas bravas.

A quick lunch at the truck may have you dwelling on the anatomy of a good sand­wich — or, in this case, a bo­cadillo, the sa­vory Span­ish sand­wich made with bread, meat and some­times cheese. The Tu­maca truck’s Ser­rano ham bo­cadillo isa study in struc­ture and well-bal­anced fla­vor. First, you have the bread. The Ro­quins went through 40 bak­eries be­fore de­cid­ing on a cia­batta roll from Bub and Grandma’s, for­mer tele­vi­sion writer Andy Kadin’s bak­ery op­er­a­tion that sup­plies farm­ers mar­kets and restau­rants around town with loaves of bread. “It was a rev­e­la­tion,” said Vic­tor. The roll is rubbed with fresh tomato; then comes a layer of brava sauce, a safety-orange-col­ored aioli spiked with hot pa­prika and sherry vine­gar. The Ro­quins pile on rib­bons of pa­per-thin Ser­rano ham, a mound of arugula, then add a spoon­ful of sweet, caramelized onion.

The couple’s ver­sion of patatas bravas is called tu­maca fries, pre­sented as minia­ture blocks of notquite-crunchy potato smoth­ered in a gar­lic aioli with a sprin­kle of pa­prika. The al­bondi­gas, golf ball­sized meat­balls cov­ered in a sofrito with hot pa­prika, is from a recipe from Sy­bil’s grand­mother and mother. And Vic­tor says the lomo con queso, a mon­ster of a sand­wich filled with pork loin medal­lions, smoked ba­con, melted Manchego cheese, roasted green pep­pers, Piquillo pep­pers and a romesco sauce, was adapted to “bet­ter suit lo­cal tastes.”

The Ro­quins also en­listed the help of pork farm Peads and Bar­netts, which they dis­cov­ered at the Santa Mon­ica farm­ers mar­ket, to make a ver­sion of Cata­lan black pep­per sausage. Pi­parra pep­pers, chives, crispy onions and a mix of may­on­naise and brava sauce are used as top­pings for the pork link, which is loaded into a squishy hot dog bun. (If you’ve had a Colom­bian dog topped with potato chips, the ef­fect is sim­i­lar.)

If you con­sider your­self a pa amb tu­maca purist, order the tostada de ja­mon. A slab of sour­dough (also from Bub and Grandma’s) is toasted un­til lightly crisp, then rubbed with tomato and topped with olive oil and Ser­rano ham.

The Ro­quins plan to even­tu­ally open a ta­pas bar with bo­cadil­los and a se­lec­tion of nat­u­ral French and Span­ish wines.

“But first things first, and the truck is a good way to test our con­cepts,” said Vic­tor. “But we re­ally love L.A., both for the food and life­style, and we will spend all our en­ergy to make it hap­pen.”

The Tu­maca truck is pop­ping up at Sil­ver­lake Wine ev­ery Mon­day with new specials; for a full sched­ule visit www.tu­maca­truck.com.

Pho­to­graphs by Jay L. Clen­denin Los An­ge­les Times

A SIM­PLE Cata­lan dish of tomato-rubbed bread lends its name to Vic­tor and Sy­bil Ro­quin’s sand­wich-fo­cused food truck.

TU­MACA FRIES are the chefs’ ver­sion of patatas bravas.

SER­RANO HAM bo­cadillo with a special brava sauce.

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