Perth, AU: Van-tastic Food

The West Australian © The Cuban Sandwich Co's Justin Footit. Picture: Iain Gillespie

By Olga de Moeller |  Yahoo!

The West Australian © The Cuban Sandwich Co's Justin Footit. Picture: Iain Gillespie
The West Australian © The Cuban Sandwich Co’s Justin Footit. Picture: Iain Gillespie

Lunch is just a tweet away with Perth’s hottest food phenomenon since Mr Whippy put ice-cream on wheels. These days it’s dumplings, gourmet snags and pulled pork sandwiches out of vans making pop-up appearances around town, and social media is the way to stay on track.

The Cuban Sandwich Co’s Justin Footit tweets and Facebook posts his movements but regulars know they can get their fix at Kyilla Community Farmers’ Market – yes, it’s new – in North Perth on Saturdays. We’re talking about a soft bread roll with shredded pork shoulder, baby cos lettuce, garlic aioli sweetened with a dash of honey and jalapeno peppers for a kick. A weekday spot at the University of WA is also on the cards as part of its food van push, which kicks off this semester.

“People line up for hours to get these in Miami,” Mr Footit says. “It’s a secret recipe from Cuba and it makes a perfectly balanced meal. The pork is slow cooked for five hours in a commercial kitchen and I like to lightly toast the rolls when I can.”

The van’s part of the deal; a fully kitted-out blue Volkswagen Transporter that’s a moving billboard with, you guessed it, a fluttering Cuban flag and giant roll painted on the sliding door. Best of all, Mr Footit hands out spare rolls to homeless people on the streets.

“Sometimes regulars will put in for an extra one for me to give away,” he says. “It’s early days because the food van revolution hasn’t kicked off yet in Perth but there’s good things happening and it’s only going to grow from here.”

Sydneysiders already have a food truck phone app that lets locals track their culinary adventures with real-time messages and Instagram pics. It’s a worldwide trend that got a new lease of life a couple of years ago with Roy Choi’s Kogi trucks in Los Angeles where red velvet pancakes, Indian dosas and Vietnamese sandwiches have redefined meals on wheels.

Closer to home, Jumplings Tasty Dumplings’ Roy Chin has it down pat with Facebook updates summoning followers to come on down: “Hi all, the truck is leaving as we speak . . . Hopefully it will end up @ angazi as planned . . . I thought a lot about duck today so duck ended up on the truck along with chicken and I think limited amount of tofu. I also brewed some fresh ponzu this morning. Enjoy!”

Who can resist? Angazi is his Park’d @ Curtin spot for the day in a six-month trial that started in March as part of the university’s Place Activation Plan to enliven the campus and connect it with the broader community. Ten food trucks have participated on a roster basis at various locations on the grounds, with Comida du Sol coming on board this semester to serve up South American treats.

“It’s the first time in WA that food trucks have come together in a co-ordinated way,” says Carla Chatzopoulos, from Place Match, which was engaged to put together the program. “The food trucks are the cornerstone of the initiative and the response to them has been overwhelmingly positive, so I see them continuing.”

Ian Callahan, Curtin’s vice-president of corporate services, says healthy, fresh and fun food options with vegetarian and gluten-free choices, at affordable prices, were what the university wanted to achieve with the program – and it’s worked.

Melbourne-based Mutter Krause sized up the WA market and shipped across a bright red van for the Park’d initiative. On the menu, bratwurst, viennas, chilli chorizos, frankfurts, cheese kranskys and currywurst made by 2012 WA Sausage King Paul Marinovich in Mirrabooka.

National director Dirk Gierlach says there’s less “red tape” in Perth when it comes to setting up but the bottom line is that food vans can’t operate without council permission.

The Town of Victoria Park gave Curtin the green light and chief executive Arthur Kyron believes food vans are a “wonderful addition” to the community. Moves are afoot in the City of Perth to review public trading laws to allow more mobile food and beverage vendors in the city.

It’s already happening in Fremantle, which is rolling out a “unique food vehicle trial” in nine locations, including Esplanade Reserve, Wilson Park and Leighton Beach. Starting in about a week, operators will use social media to tell people where they are.