Worker bees in Downtown Minneapolis should know how good they have it; compared with downtown St. Paul, the odds of finding a food truck for lunch are 10 to 1 in Minneapolis’s favor. Sure, St. Paulites might get lucky if they work near the Capitol or the Wednesday and Thursday food truck courts on Kellogg. But if you are looking for an Asian food truck in St. Paul, then you have a couple of options.
One of the St. Paul regulars (Mears Park, the Capitol) is Asian Invasion, a red and white truck with a cartoon of two rumpled urchins nom-nom-nom-ing a shared noodle bowl. We opted for the truck’s lemongrass chicken ($8) and a side of egg rolls ($5). Despite a sizable crowd, the line moved fast and the food came up lickety-split.
The lemongrass chicken was stir-fried with onions — caramelized, salty, and speckled with hot pepper. Served over sticky white rice, the sliced thigh meat was spicy and well balanced, with lemongrass playing the marquee role and soy sauce supporting. However, the meat was a little tough in spots and it could have used some color, in the form of herbs or vegetables.
The egg rolls were hot and crispy but didn’t have any identifying flavor to distinguish them from the freezer case variety. They looked small for their ballpark nacho container, but it served its purpose — the cheese bowl is a perfect receptacle for sweet and sour sauce.
Perhaps it was a hectic morning for Asian Invasion, but their hand-written menu didn’t exactly match what they were serving that day, and the truck was out of bottled water before noon. Stranger still for a food truck, especially an Asian food truck, was the lack of rooster sauce. Overall: The food was good, but not walk-across-town good.
Find Asian Invasion on Twitter @AsianInvasionTr
Painted with a pink-to-purple fade, the Hibachi Daruma truck looks as though it might have driven right off your iPhone. Frequently found near the Capitol or on Kellogg, they serve Japanese style hibachi cuisine (duh) — grilled meat, tofu, and vegetables with rice or noodles. Daruma, for the curious, are the paper mache dolls that adorn the truck.
We tried the hibachi combo: chicken in teriyaki sauce and shrimp sauteed in garlic butter and lemon ($11). All of the hibachi dishes come with sauteed vegetables (zucchini and carrots on this day) and fried rice. The butterflied shrimp were springy and fresh, and cooked just right. Browned and tender, the chicken was so evenly cubed that one might wonder if they use square chickens. Despite a hint of teriyaki sweetness, the dominant taste of the chicken was chicken. Like most food trucks, Hibachi Daruma has Sriracha on their condiment shelf, so we poured it into a corner, hoping it wouldn’t be needed. But after picking out the shrimp, the remains were, in the end, mixed with the Sriracha and daruma shrimp sauce (mostly mayo), which brought the otherwise missing flavor.
Hibachi Daruma has the cooking process down — the meat was tender and cooked to perfection — but they could use some oomph in the marinade department. A couple of steps away from being in the top tier of food trucks, these guys are worth keeping an eye on.
Find Hibachi Daruma on Twitter @HibachiDaruma