A preview of the SF Street Food Festival 2011

by foodhoe on August 14, 2011

Last month, I was invited to attend an extremely cool preview of some of the delectables that will be offered in next Saturday’s San Francisco Street Food Festival.  The media event was held in Fort Mason on a Friday night next to an Off the Grid mobile food extravaganza with over 30 local food trucks to choose from.  There were over 100 members of the press, which includes bloggers, writers and other interested parties, roaming the lines with cameras at the ready.  I dragged my cousin Megu along with me because she’s been feeling infused with the spirit of mobile food entrpreneurship lately.  Warning: this is an epic long post, but it’s about an epic event, so bear with me…

The festival next Saturday will feature 70 sellers, half are part of La Cocina’s incubator program (more on this later), spread over 8 blocks in la Mission. That’s ten times bigger than the first year!   There will be chefs with brick and mortar establishments (flour + water, la mar, namu, the slanted door, beretta, nettie’s crab shack) as well as food trucks from other cities, providing visitors a unique opportunity to nosh from an impressive selection of foods in a block party atmosphere.

Let’s get onto the food.  One of the most intriguing dishes was from Azalina’s Kitchen, which serves Malaysian street food, the cuisine is influenced from three cultural groups; Chinese, Indian, and Polynesian/Malay. Her Penang Curry Bomb was the dish that had everybody talking. Classic malaysian street food, the green onion bun is made from a recipe that is used for making roti canai.  She achieves its sublime flaky texture by steaming it first, then baking and then finishes by deep frying in order to get the crispy texture.  Then it is stuffed with penang chicken curry along with some of the local summer’s bounty of blueberries and carrots and cucumbers that are pickled overnight.  This was so good.

Another favorite was the Korean Taco from Namu.  Made from chopped up short ribs, on a bed of seasoned rice folded in Korean and Japanese seaweeds topped with a pickled daikon radish and kimchee salsa, drizzled with kimchee remoulade and homemade teriyaki sauce.

We really enjoyed the Onigilly rice balls, a traditional Japanese food made with brown rice and delicious filling wrapped with toasted sheets of seaweed.  This name cracks me up, because it is how the Japanese pronunce the word Onigiri, [Oh-Knee-Ghee-Lee].  The riceballs are $3 each and the simple menu offers a variety of riceballs,  a bowl of miso soup $3 (with one free refill), and edamame ($3).

This is the Spicy Shrimp, big chunks of tender shrimp mixed with tobiko (flying fish roe) with spicy aioli, you can’t get any better than this.  The texture of the rice is fantastic because they use a 30% polished brown rice, so the germ is still intact, the texture is chewy and slightly nutty.

They also had a vegan option, Hijiki with Edamame, the simmered seaweed nimono is savory and has a toothsome chew.

This is a sample of Chicken Tikka Masala from the Curry Up Now truck.  That was hella spicy!  The Bay Area’s first Indian Street Food on a Mobile Truck is inspired from street foods in India and Indian foods popular in other parts of the world.  They opened up a restaurant in San Mateo that serves Tikka Masala Fries (their take on poutine) which I really must go try.

The Cochanita Pibil from Chaac Mool is a Yucatecan specialty made from slow cooking Niman Ranch pork, and spiced with achiote seeds, which give it a brilliant red color.  I noticed that Chaac Mool has a booth setup in Dolores Park now.

Mini Huaraches Alambre from El Huarache Loco.  Their signature dish, mini masa cakes stuffed with refried beans and lightly griddled, topped with the Alambre, a classic Mexico City dish made with beef, bacon, grilled peppers, grilled onions and mozzarella cheese.

Beyond the La Cocina vendors, we checked out some other interesting trucks.  This particular display from the 3 Sum Eatscart caught my attention.  Home made twinkies (2 for $3.50), gigantic Kitchen Sink Cookies made with coffee, coconut, potato chips, and butterscotch chips ($3.50), and Almond Joy Cake in a jar ($4).  Oh and btw, 3 Sum Eats is a Ryan Scott owned vehicle

These bags of House made Potato Chips served with dirty ranch dressing ($2.50) were alone enough to grab my attention.  Their menu really sounded good.  Hello, Rice Krispie Coated Fried Chicken Sandwich and Mac and Cheese Springrolls?  Yum…

Pica Pica Kitchen offered a dazzling array of Arepas, a signature sandwich of Venezuela.  The grilled white corn flour cake (arepa) is cut lengthwise and stuffed with different fillings.   Among the most popular ones are the Pepeada (chicken salad with avocado), Pelu’a (shredded skirt steak and cheddar cheese), Pernil (pork, tomatoes and avocado) and Catira (chicken sauteed in a sofrito base with gouda cheese).

And then of course the Chairman Bao truck had its ridiculously long lines that snake back and forth like you were in line at Disneyland.  But people will wait in those lines for the oh-so-decadent pork belly bun piled high with daikon

Or the melt in your mouth Chinese Spiced Duck Confit with Fresh Mango Salad on Steamed Bun

Another OTG, we picked up this quartet from The CupKates truck.  Salted Caramel, S’mores, Double Vanilla, and Coconut ($3 ea)

And now… onto the second part of the evening.  Volunteers guided us back to the conference for cocktails, and we were entranced by the stunningly gorgeous edible Jell-O shots created by Rosa Rodriquez of Sweets Collection.   These are individually made with a combination of colored milk-based gelatin encapsulated in a delicate clear gelatin exterior, using a fine flavor injector tool.  During this time, platters of 10 different appetizers were passed around.

We found seats at tables with beverages provided by Whole Foods and cute little La Cocina temporary tattoos. We shared our table with Rebecca from Bexbites and Courtney from Hip Tastes.

The Street Food Festival is organized by La Cocina, (pronounced la co-see-nah, meaning “The Kitchen” in Spanish) a ground-breaking business incubator that works to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs and helps them formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. Many of these vendors got their start through La Cocina, women who used to sell their handmade tamales from a pushcart now have fluorishing self sufficient businesses.  The Executive Director, Caleb Zigas introduced some of the entrepreneurs who have been empowered from their kitchen incubator to become successful small business owners.  He profiled Maria del Carmen Flores owner of Estrellita’s Snacks who began by selling Tostadas, hand cut plantain and yucca chips on the streets of the Mission District.  At that time, she also carried a bag of party favors in case the authorities questioned her about her business, she would pull those out and say she is only selling party favors.  Now she has a thriving Salvadoran food company selling pupusas, tamales and tostadas.  Such a cute and inspiring story!

I have to tell you that I was not very hungry after all of those munches out at the monster truckstop, and the subsequent appetizer platters… Which is unfortunate because what happened next is that we now sat down to a 3 course meal!  Each course was a series of 3 platters containing small plates that were meant to be sampled.  My survival instinct kicked in, and I will only highlight a few of my favorites. The Takoyaki from Nombe, was a tiny bite that was savory, creamy and a little bit spicy.

Pork Belly BLT from Good Foods Catering, The pork was topped with tomato jam, spicy mayo, mixed greens, and pickled onions, served on a slider bun.

The Mini Tamales from Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas, were filled with pork, chicken and Oaxacan cheese with chili strips topped with green and red sauces.

Shrimp Po’Boy from Zella’s Soulful Kitchen

Pumpkin Curry with Forbidden Rice from Osha Thai Restaurant. So good, but so full…

And then, obscenely, dessert arrived.  Platters piled with Cakepops from La Luna Cupcakes, Dulce de Leche Crepes from Delicioso Creperie, and Alfajores from Sabores del Sur Bakery in Walnut Creek.

The Alfajores were unbelievably delicious.  Pretty flower-shaped shortbread cookies that are filled with dulce de leche creme.  The cookies are ethereal, buttery and flaky and dusted with powdered sugar.  I will be looking for this booth next Saturday for sure…

And there were pint containers of Lemon Cookie and Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi ice creams from Three Twins.

Are you still with me?  If so, you are now armed with some recommendations on what to look out for at the San Francisco Street Food Festival!
Aug. 20, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Mission District, mostly Folsom between 22nd and 26th sts.
Cost: Free admission. Cash for food. Proceeds benefit La Cocina.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa August 15, 2011 at 1:31 am

A great event! I wish we had food trucks here…




Single Guy Ben August 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

This was an epic post! I may have to break my “no deep-fried foods” rule and try that Penang Curry Bomb. It sounds incredible, and I love curry in a bun! BTW, I just happened to try an Onigilly rice ball yesterday and the rice totally fell apart at the first bite. It was so dry. 🙁 So I think they may have an issue with consistency. Maybe Saturday will be better because there’ll be so many people they have to keep making fresh rice. I’m looking forward to Saturday but sounds like it’s going to be, well, epic. 😉


Carolyn Jung August 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Wow, I am so sorry to have missed that because of another commitment. Yowza, look at the food — from the buffet of onigiri to the most beautiful Jell-O molds ever.


Aoife Mc August 16, 2011 at 8:23 am

Wow! It all looks really good but I can see why the Penang Curry Bomb was the talk of the festival. It looks INCREDIBLE. YUM!


grace August 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm

arepas and cupcakes ($3? is that normal? yowza!), yum!


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