Ask any two lunch wagons on Oahu what the truck ordinances are and you get different answers.

As I discussed in my last post on Hawaiian Lunch Wagons, the food truck culture has grown up over decades from a way to get meals to fields and construction sites to a modern mixture of old style lunch wagons and new style gourmet trucks. Along with this sense of tradition is the "hang loose" mentality of Hawaiians. This has created an "anything goes" approach to the truck scene which has both good and bad points to it.

What you don't really see in Hawaii are trucks roaming the streets. Almost every truck I saw was parked on private property. In this regard, Oahu is more like Portland than Sacramento or San Francisco. In some cases you will even see them set up with awnings, tables, and chairs for patrons to eat their meals at. So far this is by choice of the trucks themselves versus a perk thrown in by the property owners like is often seen in Portland.

Did you know that pineapples are not native to Hawaii? It turns out they are from South America and came over on trading ships back in the early 1800s.

This was one of the interesting facts I learned when I stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation on my way to North Shore on Oahu. The plantation sits almost in the center of the island at an elevation of xx above sea level. This elevation provides the perfect growing conditions in that there is plenty of Hawaiian sun but the temperatures are a bit cooler than down by the coast. Another element that makes Hawaii perfect for pineapples is the high iron content in the volcanic soil.

"I get confused when you say food truck because here we call them lunch wagons." This was from my tablemate at dinner the other night (sorry, forgot your name, my bad). This woman grew up here in Honolulu and gave me some interesting perspective on the food truck history here. I had already arrived at the conclusion that it's a cultural thing, she just reinforced it.

Lunch wagons have been around on the islands for decades. My tablemate explained to me that when she was growing up, there were still many trucks used as mobile stores. There were few stores on the island and so trucks would come to your neighborhood with anything from produce to fabric to household items. Vending trucks were a familiar sight and as they came down the street, some would generate the same kind of excitement that we associate with ice cream trucks attracting kids today.

Do you know where your sushi fish came from? There's a good chance that it came from the Hawaii fish auction.

Started in 1952, the Honolulu Fish Auction is the only live tuna auction in the U.S. The auction is a way for fisherman to get the best, fairest price for their fish by competitive bidding from wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants. The bidding process also prices according to market conditions of supply and demand as well as availability of the daily catch.

To be quite honest, there is so much to say about the Hawaiian food truck scene that I'm having a hard time figuring out how I want to put it into an article. In the meantime, here are a couple of collages of the Honolulu trucks I've encountered so far, and these are just the ones I took time to snap pics of. 

The first collage is of the two trucks at the University of Hawaii. The second are trucks found on lots throughout downtown.  I'm heading off to Aloha Stadium to see some more tomorrow and then, of course, is Eat the Street on Friday, Hawaii's equivalent of Off the Grid with about 30 trucks in one spot.

I'm also still trying to hook up with local truck advocates so that I can learn more about the ordinances and what does and doesn't work here. Suffice it to say, each truck I talk to seems to have a different understanding of the rules. I guess it's that laid back Hawaiian culture where no one seems to really care all that much about the rules. 

A couple of things to note from the pictures - first is that they convert whatever they can get their hands on, be it a bus, a delivery van, or a limo bus. Second is that most of these vehicles are not the spiffy, sharp looking trucks like our Drewski's or Wicked 'Wich.
Plenty more to come, including the famous Giovanni's shrimp truck I ate at today on the north shore. Stay tuned.

No, you can't just hike up the side of Diamond Head. I mistakenly thought you could.

My hotel is at the end of Waikiki, almost across the street from the Honolulu Zoo. The zoo sits in a park at the base of Diamond Head and I had thought I could just walk out of my hotel, across the park, and start climbing up the face of Diamond Head. Not so.

Diamond Head (DH) is a volcanic crater that was formed 300,000 years ago. When it erupted it created a huge cone of ash and pulverized magma that settled and hardened into tuff. It has never erupted again at this point.

When we were busy planning SactoMoFo last year we knew that we would have to bring a lot of gourmet trucks in from the Bay area. As of last fall, all we knew of in the Sacramento area were traditional catering trucks, not the gourmet kind, and street vendors like the tamale ladies, BBQs, and the Wood Fired Pizza Company.

Then we were contacted by Mama Kim to tell us she had a truck here in Sacramento. None of us had heard of it and so we asked her to send some pictures and her menus. Turns out, as far as I know, she had the first gourmet, non-taco, roving truck in the area. (Note that Leaven & Earth is stationery.) She had been doing minimal roving in the County, outside of City limits (mostly North Highlands).

What is unique about Mama Kim on the Go is that the menu changes regularly. Most gourmet trucks will focus on a certain food theme. Miniburger does burgers, Wicked Wich does Pittsburgh style sandwiches, Cupkates does cupcakes, and Hapa SF does modern Filipino. But because Mama Kim has been a caterer first and foremost, she just changes her menu depending on her mood. One week it will be salmon roll sushi, the next banh mi sandwiches, and many times you'll find her very popular tri tip sandwiches.

I'm reposting this story to encourage you to go to the SF Street Food Festival this coming Saturday.

The best parts of having a media pass to the SF Street Food Festival was that we were allowed to go early, talk to vendors, taste some food, and learn.

As I mentioned yesterday, the SF Street Food Festival is hosted by La Cocina, which promotes startup food businesses. The press was led around an hour before the festival by Caleb Zigas, Executive Director of La Cocina. He explained that last year was the first festival and it was just the 20 La Cocina businesses on one city block. Apparently it was chaos. There were about 13,000 people that showed up. Vendors ran out of food and the lines blocked the small street area.

This year there were 40 vendors. They had their supported La Cocina businesses but also opened it up to some restaurants, some food trucks, and a few informal businesses. The area was increased to about four street blocks and they added some music by the beer gardens.

Saturday, August 18, 2012 from 11 AM – 7 PM

Folsom Street between 22nd & 26th, San Francisco

Free admission. Cash for food. Proceeds benefit La Cocina.

Original Post: 8/20/10

Today I was privileged enough to get a media pass to the SF Street Food Festival put on by La Cocina thanks to Foodbuzz. This was the second year of a festival that is obviously going to be an annual event in San Francisco. There is so much information to share that I feel I need to split this into a two-parter. Today I will tell you about La Cocina and tomorrow I will share some of the festival.

La Cocina calls itself an “incubator kitchen”. The term “incubator”, as it is used in business, was a new one for me. Incubator organizations assist entrepreneurs with starting their businesses. They “nurture the development of entrepreneurial companies, helping them survive and grow during the start-up period, when they are most vulnerable.” Most incubator organizations help economically vulnerable communities, low income families, and other people who struggle to start a business. 

I've decided that Bibingka would be a good name for my next cat. I'm not planning to get another cat for some time, as I already have 2 and 3 year olds, but it seems like a good pet name.
Banana leaves found in frozen section of Asian markets

In actuality, bibingka is a Filipino cake, most often rice based. It's slightly sweet and features, get this, a slice of salted egg on the top. That seems pretty odd for a dessert, but then again, Asian foods are often like that - using contrasting flavors in the same recipe. Filipinos love salty sour. Here in the States we've seen this done more often lately with things like kettle corn, salted caramels, etc.

The bibingka recipe comes from my Filipino blogging friend, Jun at Jun-blog. Jun says that this particular type is traditionally eaten at Christmas time. I had a few Christmases in the Philippines when I was a child, but I guess my family was too Western - I don't recall these cakes at all. I must learn bits of my Filipino culture late in life, on my own, with assistance from my adopted Filipino 'family'. But for Jun, these are an important part of his memories and associations with Christmas time on the islands.

I am a terribly uncoordinated person. I tried to get away with the least amount of exercise and P.E. when I was young. I didn't start exercising faithfully until my mid 30s. This even carried over to basic stuff like not learning to ride a bike or swim until I was about 8, never being able to really rollerskate or rollerblade well at all, and stumbling around during dance segments of school musicals I was in. It is no surprise that I could never get a hula hoop to go very well either.

But the idea of hooping as an exercise held an appeal for me. I could see how it was a whole body workout with emphasis on your core. Certainly it's one of the more fun ways to exercise too.

Here in Sacramento you can learn and exercise with hoops through Allison Miller of BloomHoops. Allison offers classes for all skill levels at a couple of locations. My first class I attended was at La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael. In a large, empty classroom I learned the basics of hooping. The first half hour is devoted to body hooping and the second half is for arm hoop exercises and other tricks. She has a beginners and intermediate class here. On Wednesday nights you can find her teaching outdoors at McKinley park.

Benihana on Urbanspoon

I thought I had been to Benihana before. Turns out I had been to a similar Japanese teppanyaki restaurant, and, like others, generalized and thought that the showy restaurant was a Benihana.

You might have been to such a restaurant yourself for an occasion. You are there for the show as much as you are there for the food, if not more so. The chefs perform tricks ranging from juggling pepper shakers, flipping food, and creative presentations. I would wager most people leave remembering the jokes and tricks more than they remember the food.
Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan (鉄板), which means iron plate, and yaki (焼き), which means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. In Japan, teppanyaki refers to dishes cooked using an iron plate. Modern, Western teppanyaki grills are typically propane-heated flat surface grills, and are widely used to cook food in front of guests at restaurants.