A new food phenomenon bringing Los Angeles, Adelaide and Paris to tricity’s streets is steadily driving into our food culture through food trucks. Far from common roadside food carts, these trucks are visually attractive and boast of an onboard kitchen, prompt service and mouth-watering menu.
Realising the trend, an increasing number of educated young entrepreneurs and well-known sit-down franchises are stepping forward in the food truck scene, which started to make its presence felt in 2013.
Though it might look like food trucks are the next big thing for food-geeks in tricity, the road to success is not without bumps, claimfood-truck owners.
A food truck owner, requesting anonymity, said, “The local food truck boom is still a distant dream. Some people may think of food-truck vending as fun, but the business battles with a number of operational hazards such as finding the ‘right spot’ for operating and the need for a streamlined regulatory policy.”
Citing lack of co-operation and transparency among licensing authorities, Chandan, the owner of Hunger Xpress, a truck operating from Panchkula, said he was unsure if he wanted to continue operating his truck anymore. “I made an investment of `22 lakh in my foodtruck, but I still have problems operating it like a business especially when it comes to the permit process. It hurts because people really like our food, but in the end it comes down to the licensing issues and red tape,” he added.
Despite the major challenges, the food truck business, which is often marketed through word of mouth and social media, is persevering and so are its followers. The credit goes to globalisation. Some of the truck owners have either witnessed the food-truck culture firsthand or are familiar with it through popular television shows such as Fabulous Food Carts, The Great Food Truck Race and Eat Street.
We bring to you a few popular food trucks in the tricity that are an interesting amalgamation of the local and global, and just about everything in between, at affordable prices.
Desi Firangi hit the road in May last year. Its menu offers good value for money, while not compromising on quality.
It offers as many as 30 different types of dosas including strawberry, maggi, dil-khush (stuffed with cheese and vegetables) and frankie, each claiming to be different in taste and texture. You can also place an online order at www.desifirangii.in
Must-try: Chicken triple rice for `160, Frankie dosa for `90
Rolling since: May 2014
Location:IT Park, Chandigarh
Ambience: Located in a parking lot, it is amply spacious and easily accessible.
Serving hours: 24x7
Outdoor seating: Not available
The idea: Desi Firangi is run by two partners who got the idea during their stay in Cyprus where they pursued hotel management. “We were introduced to the food truck culture in Cyprus. We returned in 2009 and that was when we decided to start a food truck,” shares Abhi, who hails from Mirzapur, near Kurukshetra district.
“It gives us a sense of independence. We can take the truck to birthday parties, corporate functions and private events,” he added. Abhi left his steady job to get involved full-time in the business.
When asked how the name of their food truck came about, Abhi’s business partner from Jind, who did not want to disclose his name, said, “I’ve been nicknamed as ‘Firangi’ by my friends, while Abhi is called ‘Desi, and hence the name of our food truck.”
What’s next: The duo is looking forward to launching a food bus sometime this year. It would tour the tricity and cater to private events and parties.
Run by Chandan Obhoo, Hunger Xpress is known in Panchkula for its variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food items which include white sauce pasta, cheese naan with gravy, chicken butter masala, lemon chicken and tandoori snacks. The menu is extended in winter to include fish malai tikka and fish crunchy tikka. Expect to be served generous portions at affordable rates.
Must-try: Cheese naan with gravy, chicken butter masala (`400; serves 3)
Rolling since: October 2013
Location: The parking area next to the BSNL building, Sector 20, Panchkula
Ambience: Located in a spacious parking lot with a market nearby
Serving hours: Seven days a week from 5pm to 10:30pm
Outdoor seating: Available
The idea: Chandan ventured into the food-truck business a year after completing hotel and restaurant management from Australia. “This is my passion. What I like about my job is that I am my own boss and I cherish my independence. Though serving customers is all about teamwork,” said Chandan.
THE ROLLING TASTE BUDS (TRTBS)
The menu boasts of several mouthwatering preparations including cheese chana kulcha, Amritsari naan with chana, chicken popcorn, chicken meat ball curry and butter chicken. Claiming to be the first food truck to be operating in Punjab, TRTBS has a separate counter for vegetarians.
Rolling since: December 2013
Location: Near Chandigarh Group of Colleges, Mohali*
Serving hours: Monday to Saturday, from 12 pm to 9 pm*
What’s next:”We are planning a makeover and a change in the location,” said Charanpreet Singh, the man behind the initiative.
Note: *Location and operating hours are subject to change.
UMEED FOOD EXPRESS
Though not exactly a food truck, this pioneering eatery on wheels has now been serving people for a little over half a decade. A unique initiative to support people with psychiatric disabilities, this eatery has undergone a recent makeover and now boasts of an impressive list of food items. “Many customers come from far-away places just to have our food,” said Mohinder Pal, the in-charge of Ummeed Food Express.
Must-try: Chana kulcha (`40)
Rolling since: May 2008
Location: Sector 19-C parking lot, Chandigarh
Ambience: Located near the parking lot of one of the city’s most famous markets, this mobile eatery is a delight for many locals as it offers a vibrant atmosphere, albeit a bit busy with passing cars and hurrying shoppers.
Serving hours: Monday to Saturday, from 1 pm to 9 pm
Outdoor seating: Available
The idea: Umeed Food Express was inaugurated by Sanjay Kumar, the then UT home and finance secretary, as part of an initiative by Umeed, an NGO that works towards the development of deprived and marginalised people. Currently, Mohinder Pal, the parent of a mentally-retarded child, works as the in-charge of the eatery while M Faizal and Rakesh, who are also mentally retarded, work as helpers.
What’s next: “We are blessed to have a loyal following and hope the administration would allow us to materialise the success of ourfood truck into a fast-food outlet in the future,” said Mohinder Pal.
From the cops’ kitchen
Opposite to the office of Mohali deputy commissioner and senior superintendent of police, Phase-1, a Punjab police van has been serving besan, matthi, balushahi, barfi, bread pakora and tea at very nominal charges for the last five years. Van incharge Kulwant Singh plans to add cold drinks to the menu this summer.
Timing: 9am to 5pm
The writer is a Panchkula-based freelance journalist, columnist, food and travel writer
(With inputs by Gagandeep Gill)