Tokyo is a city best described as an eclectic blend of ultra modern and ancient. This is apparent in all aspects of the culture including the culinary arts where the Japanese make an easy task of combining tradition with Western modern ideas.
Japan's Food Trucks
One of my favorite trends happening around the city right now is the creative, entrepreneurial, food truck.
Not to be mistaken for the long standing tradition of Japanese shop owners selling food out of wooden wagons, yatai, to workers on location, the modern take is much more about individual passion, style, and creation. While many trucks around the city still serve the same purpose of bringing local foods closer to the working people, the new class of truck speaks to an entrepreneurial spirit and the love of cuisine from all over the world.
One of the most interesting trucks that I have run into lately is a short walk from Hiro-o station. This area has a large expat community and so the set up of a truck selling Haggis grilled cheese sandwiches just makes sense. I for one grew up on grilled cheese and soup. Upon speaking with the owner and cook, I discovered that this particular Tokyo food truck is a franchise from London that sells Scottish style sandwiches from a truck there as well. They explained that a food truck was much less difficult to set up than a storefront, but still a challenge in Tokyo.
Deeney’s is a little black van, dressed as though you were looking into the kitchen window of a countryside home complete with plaid curtains and cast iron cookware. The grilled cheese sandwiches are rich, cheesy, and perfect on a cold day with a warm soup to dip them in. They offer three cheeses: Gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar. There is even a vegetarian haggis option! If you are looking for something completely different and reminiscent of your childhood lunches, head to Deeney’s. They are parked in front of National Azabu Supermarket everyday except Tuesday. They also told me that they often make an appearance at the weekend Farmers Market at United Nations University. So I headed over there to see what it was all about.
The Farmer’s Market at the United Nations University in Omotesando is part of a movement to highlight the organic local foods of Japan. To learn more about this click here. One of the goals of the market is to have the people that make the food meet the people that eat the food. This is a perfect platform for food trucks to highlight their love of fresh foods, creative dishes, and desire to impact the community on a more intimate level. The trucks that are present often highlight organic and locally farmed foods. You can find fresh, handcrafted items, local wines and beers, vegan foods, both Japanese and international.
The artistic and innovative passions of these food businesses are young, modern, and fun. They appeal to the social media world of marketing and recording of interesting and quirky things. Not only is the food fresh and amazingly made, but also the way the trucks or vans are created is awe-inspiring. This is one foodie craze we definitely approve of!
Spotted during the weekend I chose to check out the market, was a stone oven pizza van. The stone oven with wild flames was right there in the van. The décor was the same as if you were in a Tuscan style pizzeria. My favorite part of this particular set up was that the van is a Volkswagen Bus! There is a nostalgic element to these vans and it further accentuates the idea of blending the old with the new.
I had planned to sample as many items as I could that day but each trucks offerings would have been too large a portion for me. So I opted for the most eye-catching and aromatic van. Smoked pork hanging from the tail end of a van with a smoker in the van, is not an everyday site. This omusubi van called Kome Shiru Na, offered smoked pork, bacon, and soft boiled eggs with grilled rice balls. The pork is from Shirokawa in Ehime prefecture. Every bite of pork was succulent and the egg perfectly cooked with a runny yolk. As expected from any food vendor in Japan, the attention to detail and quality of the food is excellent. I find this to be very impressive given the space that they are working with in these vans and trucks. No quality shortcuts here!
There are several other areas around the city where quality cuisine both Japanese and International from a van or truck can be found. Commune 2nd is a popular spot for to find unique foods, craft beers, wines, and other homemade beverages, organic and vegan foods in a youthful, lively atmosphere. Many of the Tokyo food trucks are stationary but several move around the city and can be tracked on social media. A popular taco truck originating from Brooklyn NY called Good Hood Food, can only be located by following their Instagram account to see where they will be on any given day. One of my favorites at Commune 2nd is Brooklyn Ribbon Fries. They specialize in spiral cut fried potatoes and homemade Ginger ale.
Other spots around the city that offer lunch time food truck fair are Shibuya Cast, Ark Hills outside of the ANA hotel, Canteen Station, and Yurakucho Tokyo International Forum Village. In these spots you can find food from around the world, from tacos or pasta, to Thai food, American BBQ, and gourmet coffee. Food truck culture is about bringing together people, artistry, and cultures with quality local foods. It is the perfect medium to share the diversity of a culture with travelers and locals alike. http://www.w-tokyodo.com/neostall/space/t-i-forum & http://shibuyacast.jp/event/detail/69