|The tocino burger of Neri's Curbside Cravings in Los Angeles uses freshly baked pan de sal instead of the usual hamburger bun. Photo courtesy of Neri's Curbside Cravings
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino cuisine has joined the gourmet food truck craze that is currently sweeping the United States.
And in Los Angeles, the food truck Neri’s Curbside Cravings is attracting attention among foodies for its Filipino-style burgers.
Curbside Cravings’ gourmet burgers include the tapa burger and the tocino burger. The popular Filipino breakfast meats are turned into a burger patty, topped with cilantro, tomato and egg on a bed of a special mango-bell pepper slaw with garlic aioli spread and served in a pan de sal bun. They also come with a bag of chips.
“It's amazing how the pan de sal bread goes together with that patty,” said Rhea Rachelle Espino, a co-owner of Curbside Cravings.
Espino, who took up Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Santo Tomas, is in charge of the day-to-day operations of Neri’s Curbside Cravings and even drives the truck herself.
Espino credits the Filipino burgers to her cousin, chef Maria Belzunce, a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu California School of Culinary Arts. Belzunce also worked with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s catering company where she had the opportunity to experience catering for high-brow events like the Oscars and the Grammy Awards.
Neri’s Curbside Cravings is the food truck of Neri’s Restaurant, which was started by Neri and Romy Seneres in 1985 in Los Angeles. Neri’s is known for its puto, kutsinta and other native delicacies, as well as chicken and pork barbecue and kare-kare.
The restaurant’s latest hit, the crispy dinuguan, is also offered at Curbside Cravings.
The food truck also has other intriguing Filipino-inspired creations, such as the daing fish balls served with garlic fried rice, the crispy lechon kawali, and the usual “silog” and barbecue meals.
Tastes like home
At $6, the tocino and tapa burgers are not cheap. But even if they are more expensive than the ordinary fast-food hamburgers, people are lining up because of their unique taste.
"I like it because it's sweet," Filizelle Catipon said of the tocino burger.
"It's just like comfort food. After a day from school and you go home and eat all the Filipino food, you feel satisfied," added Charinelle Catipon.
And it’s not just Fil-Americans who are enjoying the Pinoy-styled burgers.
Espina boasted: "The tapa burger has been reviewed by BurgerReview.com as one of the best burgers in LA."
A food review site specializing in burgers, TheBurgerReview.com gave the tapa burger its highest rating of “five bites.”
“They marinated the sirloin for two days in a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic. After leaving the marinade, the beef was ground (in-house) and formed into patties for the day. The resulting bite was flavorful, juicy, lean, and so very tender. The loosely packed, tender sirloin very nearly melted in the mouth. When I tried this burger, I was not hungry. In spite of that, I had difficulty putting that delicious ground steak sandwich down,” the review said.
“The preparation of my burger was flawless,” it added. -- Report from Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN News North America