There was a time in the not-so-distant past when food trucks were synonymous with Mexican food and day laborers. And then, something changed, which is to say, everything changed.
Food trucks became the hot new thing in the culinary world. Celebrity chefs got rolled in, beloved brick-and-mortars went mobile and suddenly the world opened up as trucks inspired by every culture of the globe were popping up around Los Angeles.
As with all food trends, eventually the novelty wore as thin as so-called California pizza. Now that the fad has devolved into ubiquity, you’ll finds trucks dishing out dinners and lunches on virtually every street corner of L.A.
But even among the masses of trucks to choose from there are still a handful of stand-outs roaming our roads that can offer something truly unique: The chance to (quite literally) take an authentic bite out of another culture.
With that in mind, below you’ll find a curated list of some of the best internationally inspired food trucks currently operating in the city of angels.
Hope your tastebuds enjoy the journey.
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1. Chinese Laundry
Serving fusion dishes by way of Southern China, Chinese Laundry offers up dishes like wontons made Sichuan style and Hainan chicken or beef cheeks served in an open-faced taco. This family-owned business is also renowned for its Sichuan noodles and its many iterations of pork belly: tucked into a bun or a slider, in a taco, or nestled into the indulgent pork belly breakfast burrito. You can find Chinese Laundry in various parts of Downtown, particularly in the Arts District.
2. Waffles de Liege
Though it’s easy to find typical Belgian waffles in the US, it’s much more difficult to locate Liege waffles. This less-common type of Belgian confection is made from rich dough bestrewn with pearl sugar so that as the waffles cook, the pearls of sugar caramelize. Crunchy outside and tender inside, eat them in the classic fashion, simply dusted with powdered sugar, or topped with speculoos, Fosselman’s ice cream, or fruit. Waffles de Liege recently opened a brick-and-mortar in Pasadena but the truck, which has made its way around town since 2011, is still active.
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3. Dollar Hits
It’s hard not to love a truck where nearly everything costs just a dollar. Dollar Hits transports you to the streets of Manila, serving up Filipino street food from a truck surrounded by communal charcoal grills. Place your order and you’ll be given cold, pre-cooked food to grill yourself. Choose from items like skewers of meat, lobster balls, egg rolls, and fish balls, or for the more adventurous, items like chicken intestine, batter-dipped quail eggs, chicken feet, and congealed pork blood. Maybe the best bargain here is the unlimited cantaloupe juice, also priced at $1. Catch Dollar Hits in historic Filipinotown at Temple and Carondolet Thursday through Sunday evenings.
4. Mariscos Jalisco
Inspired by the Mexican coastal state of Jalisco, Mariscos Jalisco has been around for over a decade. Based in Boyle Heights, they’re best known for their incredible taco dorado de camaron (deep-fried shrimp tacos) crisp and juicy and topped with avocado slices and tomato-and-cabbage salsa. If you’d like to venture further on the menu, try the aguachile or the octopus cocktail.
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5. Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla
Tacos arabes are a hugely popular street food in Puebla, Mexico. Similar to an al pastor taco but with an Arabian influence, the taco’s origin is attributed to shawarma-making Lebanese and Iraqi immigrants to Puebla in the early 20th century. Like al pastor, a taco arabe is also made with pork cooked over a rotating spit, but it boasts flavors of cumin and oregano, rather than pineapple and adobo, and is generally served in pita bread instead of a tortilla. Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla, a stationary taco truck in Boyle Heights, serves up tacos arabes Thursday through Sunday evenings.
6. Streets of Thailand
Now in its sixth year, you’ll feel like you’re visiting the food stalls of Bangkok at the Streets of Thailand truck, which serves up dishes like pad Thai, fried rice, red curry, spicy basil beef, garlic pepper pork, and Asian sesame tofu, along with Thai iced tea boba.
Yummy Thai food now till 2pm @UniFoodTrucks south weddington park on bluffside dr pic.twitter.com/VTGHsd0Io6
— Streets of Thailand (@StreetsofThai) August 22, 2014
7. Sweet Amsterdam
With an owner from Holland, Sweet Amsterdam is a purveyor of two kinds of Dutch desserts: stroop, twin layers of thin waffles sandwiching melty caramel, and poffertjes, small puffy pancakes topped with butter and powdered sugar. Enjoy them as is, or topped with dulce de leche, artisanal gelato, fruit, or nuts.
8. Seoul Sausage
Winners of The Great Food Truck Race on Food Network, Seoul Sausage has been selling Korean-influenced street food since 2010 to so much success, they now have two brick and mortar locations: one on Sawtelle and the other in Little Tokyo. Two Seoul Sausage still roam the streets, offering beloved flavor explosions like rice balls with kimchi or curry, Galbi Poutine topped with short ribs or brisket, Korean fried chicken wings, and, of course, spicy sausages. Check their Twitter for updated info on the trucks’ current location.
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9. Takoyaki Tanota
Originating from the streets of Osaka, Japan, the dumpling-like takoyaki consists of an egg-and-flour shell stuffed with octopus, scallions, pickled ginger, and bits of tempura. They’re served with jalapeño mayo sauce or citrus soy sauce, along with bonito or dried seaweed, You can find Takoyaki Tanota on Sawtelle or at other locations around L.A. and Orange County.
10. Ta Bom
Ta Bom means “It’s good” in Portuguese. Owned by three natives of Sao Paulo, Ta Bom uses recipes passed down by several generations. Here you’ll find Brazilian street food like pastels (similar to an empanada, it’s filled with mozzarella, ground beef, or mozzarella and tomatoes), coxinha (deep-fried croquettes filled with shredded chicken and cream cheese), the hamburgao (hamburger with toppings including corn, scrambled egg, bacon, potato stix and more), and Guarana soda.
11. Shao Kao BBQ
Offering authentic Chinese BBQ from young Luther Chen, a chef trained at CIA who’s taste-traveled around China and Taiwan, this truck features a charcoal grill using premium Japanese charcoal of exceptional quality. You’ll want to check out the pork belly skewer, hot fish balls oozing with roe, the live scallop, the savory lamb, the eggplant, the shishito peppers, and the shiitake mushrooms. Find Shao Kao BBQ near USC on Figueroa.
12. Say Fish
Beginning as a tiny taco stand in the coastal village of Sayulita, Mexico that earned acclaim from locals and tourists alike, Say Fish is now an L.A.-based food truck. These fish tacos are not typical, thanks to the handmade corn tortillas and the garlic in the beer batter. Try the carnitas infused with tequila, the shrimp, and the blackened salmon. Carb-conscious eaters will appreciate the cauli-rice. Say Fish can be found mostly around the Westside.
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13. Mandoline Grill
Her taste buds inspired by the Vietnamese fare served in her mother’s Honolulu restaurant, Mong Skillman left LA for Hawaii for hands-on experience with Mom. Mong is now back in L.A., making the flavorful vegan creations she now serves from the Mandoline Grill truck, where she’s been serving banh mi sandwiches, bun noodles, and her versions of nachos and tacos all over the city since 2009.
14. Mapuche Native Argentinian Food
Mapuche is owned by Carlos, a native of Patagonia who worked in restaurants in Argentina, Europe, and Mexico before coming to L.A., where he became an expert at cooking meat while working at the esteemed BOA Steakhouse. At Mapuche, Carlos serves up meat-filled empanadas, sandwiches, and tacos. Vegetarians love the quinoa empanada stuffed with mushrooms and goat cheese, while carnivores are crazy about the sweetbread taco with chimichurri.
15. India Jones Chow Truck
India Jones is headed up by a chef who’s been cooking for over 38 years at Indian eateries like East India Grill and Tiger Lily. He now specializes in Indian street food, like frankies: India’s interpretation of a burrito stuffed with meat or shrimp, along with mushrooms and paneer. Or try the taco chaat, filled with sweet chili slaw, chutney, raita, cilantro, and meat or potatoes. You’ll also want a bite of the vegetable samosas, the butter chicken, and the tomato-garlic naan.
16. El Chato
One of L.A.’s most beloved food trucks, El Chato has earned high praise from food-world luminaries like Jonathan Gold and Susan Feniger. Late into the night, El Chato serves up Jalisco-style $1 taco stuffed with carne asada, al pastor, cabeza, lengua, and more. Don’t miss the stellar pickled onions with habanero. You’ll find El Chato parked at Olympic and La Brea.
What are your favorite internationally inspired food trucks in and around Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!