I was in a lunch meeting with a Malaysian co-worker who was eating left overs from her O.G. Malaysian Mother’s family dinner. It smelled fantastic and I wanted some. She informed me that the really good food comes from the “Street Hawkers Carts” in the city-state of Singapore (on the southern tip of Malaysia). For the next week, I was near obsessed in finding a Singapore restaurant in Orange County.
A fellow food truck stalker told me that I should try “Chomp Chomp Nation”, a food truck dedicated to “from scratch” Singapore cuisine cuisine. She also said that the flavors at this truck were as authentic as the street hawkers in Jakarta, but the dishes were given a subtle American Food Truck twist. I had seen this truck before with it’s bright orange tiger stripes, but had yet to appreciate their food.
I had a chance to chat with one of the Owner’s of the truck Shaun Ng, who explained to me that they cook all of their food fresh daily “from scratch”, using authentic Singapore passed from his family. He explained that Singapore dishes are a combinations of cooking styles and recipes from multiple regions including China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and British. The dishes are known for containing over 30 ingredients and takes talent and a trained sense of taste to perfect these recipes. I asked Mr. Ng, “what I should order that would highlight the uniqueness of his truck?”. He told me to try the “Surf N Turf” and the Hibiscus Tea.
Surf and Turf Special –
This dish contained several elements including a Wygu Kobe beef skewer (satay), Tiger Shrimp Skewer, Tiger Slaw and Rice Cubes and a peanut sauce. I also order a Hibiscus Tea to wash the whole thing down. The follow descriptions will provide a discovery of the unique flavors of the surf and turf dish.
Wygu Kobe Satays –There were three satays of thinly sliced Kobe Beef. The meat was extremely tender and literally melted in mouth as I chewed it The satays had a nice basted glaze and perfect grill lines. The meat itself had a very rich aroma from a complex blend of spices that I could not pick out individually but had a pungent, sweet nose flavor. The flavor on the tongue was sweet and salty then progressed to pungent and slightly spicy on the back of the tongue as you chewed it. I literally ate my way through all three trying to figure out what spices I was tasting. When I looked down, I noticed I ate them all. The actual seasoning will remain a pleasant mystery.
Tiger Shrimp Satay – The Shrimp Satay consisted of 3 large tiger shrimps on a skewer and perfectly grilled and glazed. The seasoning on the shrimp was also extremely enjoyable with the same pungent, sweet and subtlety spicy flavors that leave a slow tingle on your tongue. The shrimp were cooked nicely, so they were tender and had a little crunch when eaten. When I ate the shrimp, I was a little more careful to enjoy them slowly this time and enjoy the moment on my taste buds.
Rice Cubes – According to my Malaysian Co-worker, these are some of the best ones outside of South East Asia. This dish is made by pressing overcooked rice with Coconut milk, to make little semi-sweet rice squares. The flavor is primarily rice, but with very subtle hints of coconut and sweetness. Alone they were a tasty little snack, but when eaten with the meats or peanut sauce, they became a canvas that allowed the sauces to paint a beautiful gastric picture.
The Peanut Sauce was placed on the bottom of the dish and provided as a dipper for the meats and the rice cubes. It is a traditional South East Asian sauce, whose recipe passed down through generations. The Sauce has over 30 ingredients including peanuts, lemon grass, daikon and whole peanuts (those are the only ingredients he would give me of secret sauce). The flavor of this sauce can be described as “transforming”, meaning the flavors keep changing the longer you leave it in your mouth and when paired with different foods. When eating the sauce you first taste a sweet, salty and savory from the peanuts and then transitions to a vingary tanginess as your chew. As you chew and swallow with the sauce, the flavor turns slightly spicy on the back of the palate and creates a slow summertime sizzle on your taste buds and throat, not so much hot but rather spicy. This sauce tasted great on all the items described above and complimented the flavors of the beef, shrimp and rice cubes nicely.
The Tiger Slaw was a nice diversion from the rich and spicy flavors of the meats and sauces. The slaw was made of shredded Napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, mango, onions, green apples, Daicon and a Cilantro Vinegar based sauce. The produce was extremely fresh and had a crunch in every bite. The flavors were sweet, tart in the same bite and cleared out the palate nicely between bites of the meat dishes. It was a hot day, so this side really refreshed my taste buds.
Hibiscus Ice Tea- The Hibiscus tea was a delicious and refreshing drink, which perfectly complimented the flavors of the surf and turf dish. This drink has a base of black tea, freshly pressed hibiscus juice (pressed daily by the owner), rose syrup, and cubes of lychee jelly at the bottom of the cup. This drink gave me the WOW! Factor right away and only got better when I sucked up some Lychee Jelly cubes through my boba straw. The natural flavors of the fresh pressed hibiscus juice and the rose syrup gave this a sweet floral flavor on the taste buds and nose flavor. The black tea created structure around the sweet floral flavors and the lime wedge added just a little acidity to brighten up the flavor. My favorite part was sucking up a lychee jelly cube and crunching down on the sweet gelatin texture. This drink added harmony to the sweet, savory and spicy flavors of the main course and was very refreshing on a mid-summer day.
My Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed eating at the Chomp Chomp Nation Food truck and was impressed by the complexity of the dishes flavors. If these dishes were put on a glass plate and served at a sit down restaurant, I would easily have paid double for this dish. In addition I had the opportunity to eat authentic Singapore Street Hawker flavors from a food truck. I am giving the Chomp Chomp Truck a 4 out of 5 their ability to bring the fresh and vibrant flavors of Indonesia into a food truck setting. The dishes were extremely enjoyable to eat and left me craving for more! I will be back!
Update: 03/26/2013 : This truck has grown up since I first them them in 2011. Since then Shaun sold the business to his partners Robert Zuetell and Gina Galvan. The trucks food has gotten better and has received the attention of Guy Fierri’s Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Link to Chomp Chomp Truck’s Website: http://chompchompnation.com/
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