Food Truck Feature: The Lime Truck

It’s a feature post! Few of these non-recipe- or picture-centric posts exist on TuroK Like Food. Prepare yourself for feature of The Lime Truck, based on an interview with Daniel Shemtob, the man behind The Lime Truck and its restaurant TLT. I initially struggled on how to approach this piece. The typical “what’s your recipe for success?” interview is overused. I decided to tackle The Lime Truck by asking questions about parts of the food truck world I didn’t previously understand. In this article, you’ll see my commentary on a few aspects of The Lime Truck’s existence: logistics, vision, and competition.

My primarily curiosity is how The Lime Truck operates from a logistical standpoint. As a consumer of, not producer in, the restaurant industry, I didn’t understand ingredient sourcing. Sourcing each ingredient from a farm seemed like a full-time job in itself. The Lime Truck, according to Daniel, uses separate produce and meat companies that do the ingredient sourcing heavy lifting. The Lime Truck holds those two companies to a certain standard by purchasing the products that it feels proud serving. The second logistical question regards preparation and cooking. I figured it impossible that all the cooking was done on the truck. How would they efficiently braise pork for 12 hours? Where would food and supplies be delivered? During the first bit of The Lime Truck’s existence, Daniel and his business partner Jason (now the visionary at The Playground in downtown Santa Ana) cooked everything on the truck. Soon thereafter, they rented a commercial kitchen space, a strategy I understand. Currently most of the cooking for the trucks is done at TLT, the restaurant originating from The Lime Truck.

Because of my fascination with psychology, I questioned Daniel’s vision and inspiration in creating The Lime Truck. His vision is nothing revolutionary for what I understand of the restaurant industry, but the empirical evidence points towards success. When Daniel and Jason started The Lime Truck, they lived in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, respectively. They decided to take their vision to Orange County, where they both grew up. The vision is this: The Lime Truck aspires to serve good quality food at reasonable prices. What is a reasonable price? Daniel mentioned $10-12 and under. Some may disagree on their assessment of reasonable price, but those people do not understand the economics and logistics of the food truck scene.

I was also interested in The Lime Truck’s financial and competitive situation. I discovered that Daniel and Jason started The Lime Truck in 2010 with $20,000 in capital costs. I’m still surprised at how little capital was required. With 20/20 hindsight, he claims that he should have used $50,000 instead and that some food truck owners go through $250,000 in startup capital. This is the point of the interview where his responses seemed like words from a coach, as if I were starting my own food truck and he were my mentor. When I asked Daniel about his views on other food trucks as friends or foes, he mentioned that The Lime Truck started the first food truck roundup in Orange County. From what I gather, Daniel doesn’t view many trucks as direct competitors, and a strong sense of camaraderie pervades within the food truck community. The truck owners empathize with fellow trucks because they understand the difficulties, of which I didn’t ask and Daniel didn’t tell. Evidently, food trucking is a tough business, based on the number of trucks for sale on Roaming Hunger.

On the bright side, Daniel is opening the third, non-wheeled, TLT restaurant in October of this year, this one at The Spectrum in Irvine.

Should you eat at The Lime Truck or TLT? If you like good food, the answer is obvious.

Because this post needs a photo, here’s one of a duck confit sope I sampled at The Lime Truck in 2012.

Duck Confit Sope - Lime Truck

And here’s a bulgogi sope I ate  in 2012.

Bulgogi Sope - Lime Truck

Did you expect perfect pictures? I hope not. This is delicious street food, and I was hungrily impatient.

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Figs with Pecorino

It’s July 6th today. On Friday, Independence day, I spent 4 hours cleaning my kitchen with my roommate. The stove-microwave-oven setup was encrusted with months of frying, braising, and stir-frying from making all these delicious recipes, and the only remedy was baking soda and much elbow grease. During the kitchen cleaning escapade, I jammed to Cher Lloyd’s Swagger Jagger. Although I’m 3 years late to the party, that song is super catchy and you need to listen to all of her songs. Now, please.

More important news: it’s fig season! I can eat pounds of figs per day and still need more. An added bonus to being tasty, reasonably-priced, and easy to prepare, they look fantastic when showcased. No surprise, this dish prominently displays figs. It’s titled, simply, “figs with Pecorino”.

The original recipe, found in The 125 Best Recipes Ever by Loyd Grossman, calls for young Pecorino. Side note: I’m not convinced these are the 125 best recipes in the history of ever. The omission of Mexican cuisine and emphasis on Provençal food tells me that the author and I don’t generally agree. However, we did agree on this figs with Pecorino.

I opted for aged Pecorino, most familiar in America as Pecorino Romano, or simply Pecorino, instead of the young version. Other hard cheeses, notably Parmigiano Reggiano, may be used in place of the Pecorino for the same amount of deliciousness.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ripe figs, any variety, about 1/2 pound, skin washed, latitudinally sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces arugula, washed and dried
  • 2 ounces Pecorino, shaved into fig-sized thin pieces,
  • Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk together the honey and olive oil. In a large bowl, toss this dressing with the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, dot the arugula salad with equal amounts of figs and cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper if you so desire.

Serves two or three as an appetizer.

Figs with Pecorino and Honey

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Tacos Al Pastor

Pineapple!

“Al pastor” means “of the shepherd”, and according to Wikipedia, was introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. I’m not sure how pineapple factors into the situation, but I do enjoy the flavor provided by its juxtaposition with flavorful pork. Let’s call this recipe cheater’s Mexican schwarma, courtesy of Epicurious.

Note: tacos al pastor don’t make mushy leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 large white or brown onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange, pineapple, or other tropical juice
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chile powder, guajillo preferred
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optionally toasted
  • 3 canned chipotle chiles con adobo, don’t drain the sauce
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

Directions

At least one day before you plan to make the dish, read this paragraph. In a blender, purée the onion, juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and chipotle peppers. Marinate the pork slices in this aromatic purée for a long time (at least overnight, and up to a few days).

For a musical break, you won’t regret listening to Justin Timberlake’s Señorita live at Madison Square Garden in 2007.

When you’re ready to eat, fire up the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple slices alongside the marinated pork slices, each for about 4 minutes per side, until the pork’s internal temperature rises to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove both the pork and pineapple to a large cutting board and let rest until cool enough to handle.

Chop the pineapple and pork into 1/4-inch cubes. Serve the pork and pineapple mixture with warm corn tortillas and topped with salsa and/or fresh onions and cilantro. We’ll now call this dish “tacos al pastor”. It makes enough for 6.

Tacos al Pastor

You’ll notice no tortilla in the picture. I do what I want.

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Breakfast Sausage

To score a discount on sustainably-raised, delicious meats, I order from Da-Le Ranch in 25-pound increments. Apart from the freezer-filling and therefore roommate-angering quantities of meat, I’m happy with the system. Similar to a CSA box, I have limited input regarding the contents of the order. Last time, they included a chunk of bulk country breakfast sausage whose taste single-handedly mitigated the full freezer roommate anger. Invigorated, I ventured to create my own breakfast sausage, with a little help from my buddy Alton Brown.

After a few iterations, I came to the following realizations.

  • Don’t use beef for this breakfast sausage. Its beefy flavor overpowers.
  • The secret ingredient, if any, is sage.
  • Fat is delicious and succulent. If you can acquire ground meat with a high fat percentage (>20%), the sausage you make will taste and feel most appealing.
  • You can grind your own meat if you so desire, but I’ve found the process to consume too much time for a marginal increase in taste.
  • You can stuff the bulk sausage into links, but I find the stuffing process is painful and hinders the Maillard reaction. I prefer to at most shape the bulk sausage into patties and pan fry to crispiness.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fatty mixture of ground meat, such as pork or lamb
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

With your hands, mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.  Work the spices into the meat for uniform combination, leaving no pockets of untouched meat. Refrigerate the sausage at least overnight for flavor distribution. If you’re impatient, you can cook the sausage immediately after mixing.

To cook the sausage, shape it into patties or leave it in a freeform state. Heat a high-smoke-point oil or fat in a skillet over a high flame. Add the sausage to the pan, and let cook for about 3 minutes. Flip the sausage over, breaking up the larger uncooked pieces if you’re cooking freeform style. After another 3 minutes on this side, check that the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If so, you’re done, baby.

Makes 1 pound of fatty breakfast sausage.

Breakfast Sausage

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Braised Lamb Shank

Braised lamb shank is one of the easiest recipes on this blog, provided you have 4 hours to hang in the vicinity of your oven. At the end, you’ll eat super tender and intensely-flavored on-the-bone lamb. If necessary, you could also use a cooked shank to fend off an attack by an unknown assailant.

Unrelated: one week ago, I attended a OneRepublic concert, opened up by The Script and American Authors. The concert entertained me, even though the parking situation and lawn seating at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine leaves much to be desired. I rocked yellow chinos to the show, receiving many compliments.

Adapted from a braised beef recipe by Ivy Chen, supplied to me about two years ago by the coolest Chinese co-captain ever, Katherine.

Ingredients

  • 4 lamb shanks, 1.5 pounds each, one per person
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 green onions, green and white parts, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fermented chili bean sauce, known as doubanjiang or 豆瓣醬
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves, or equivalent amount of ground cloves
  • Water, to cover

Directions

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add all ingredients to a large stockpot or dutch oven for which you have a cover. Bring the delicious sauce to a boil over high heat on the stove. Turn off the stove, cover, and place in the oven. Walk away and return in 3 hours.

Lift the now-tender shanks out of the braising liquid; use the stock for another recipe. Serve the shanks caveman-style on the bone. This recipe makes enough for 4.

Braised Lamb Shank

Song of the last two weeks: Problem by Ariana Grande. Prepare yourself for brassy sax overload.

Categories: Asian, Meats | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment