Chefs, Commentary, Restaurants, Travel

Intersections: Food Trucks Sell Papas Rellenas in the United States

Our Delicious Combo: Stuffed Potato with an Empanada, Cilantro Rice and Sald! Yum!

The Delicious Combo: Stuffed Potato with an Empanada, Cilantro Rice and Salad! Yum!

The temperatures change in Utah with abruptness. Today was cold in the morning, but by afternoon, the sun had warmed up the day. I was wandering out to do some shopping, and saw a fire engine red food truck:

I was attracted by the color, the smell of cooking and the idea that there was a Peruvian food truck just a few blocks from the University.

The logo was also attractive, and Amkha Misky translates roughly to ‘delicious potato’. That sounded inviting to my hungry soul.

Food trucks are an answer to street vendors. They can move from place to place, and their entire kitchen can be inspected and approved by the county. Not only is the food truck subject to regular vehicle licensing, it must also be designed for the service of the particular food which it will sell, it must have an interior plan submitted to the county for inspection. There must be a separate sink just for washing hands.  The truck must store the left over food in a ‘commissary business’ each night – never in a home. The workers are required to have a ‘food handlers’ permit, meaning they have passed a required class about food safety. Hand washing is especially stressed, along with keeping working areas clean and the proper storage of food. There are few food trucks in Utah County, and to find one offering Peruvian food was wonderful!

Amkha Misky Peruvian Food Truck in the United States
Amkha Misky Peruvian Food Truck in the United States

Coming to the window, I was met by the beautiful and smiling Nelly Bonilla. She explained that she drives the truck around the valley to find the best places to sell her wares – those wonderful flavors of Peru. The side of the truck is printed with her Facebook page name and a phone number.This makes it more convenient to find the truck as it tours around the county like a wandering restaurant. It is nice because it can be reserved for events, and they are capable of catering food as well.

From the Facebook page I found Alvaro, Nelly’s son. I asked him a few questions about the food, including if they used rocoto peppers in the sauces. “The hot/mild sauces used for the different dishes are my dads secret recipe! We do use some Peruvian spices, however, we don’t use rocoto as we feel that it may be a tad bit too hot for our average customers.”

He continued, “Our goal is be able to provide people with some variety and different kinds of hidden-gem cuisines!”

Nellie Bonillo at Work
Nely Bonilla at Work (Teresa Wilson)

The menu today included a stuffed potato, Empanadas, and a Peruvian tamale, which I am sorry to say, I didn’t try. I purchased a stuffed potato. It came deep batter fried and stuffed with a divine filling of chopped meat and spices.  It was topped with cabbage and red onions. While the Peruvian counterpart would have probably been a yellow tuber, the russet was nicely mealy. For $5 it offered a lovely meal for a reasonable price.

The empanadas came in beef, chicken and spinach. I decided on the spinach one. It was also served with a bit of julienned cabbage and a lovely sauce.

Taking my ‘gems’ back to campus, I sought out David and Eric, to get their opinion of the food. Having traveled many times to Peru and eaten street food there, I believed they would be able to tell me more about the distinctions between the dishes.

We each tried the potato. David and Eric agreed that they would have preferred a yellow potato over a russet, but to my taste, it was wonderfully done. It was nicely browned, crunchy enough after having been sealed up in the styrofoam for 30 – 45 min.  and it was wonderfully spiced. It made my tastebuds do a little happy dance.

Who Could Resist Our Delicious Tamale Wrapped in a Plantain Leaf With Cilantro Rice and Salad!
Who Could Resist the Delicious Tamale Wrapped in a Plantain Leaf With Cilantro Rice and Salad!

The empananda was beautiful, but the dough was a bit hard. The Spinach center was fine, and I liked the green taste of it. I know there are different ways of handling the dough in different countries – or by different cooks for that matter. However, both David and Eric pronounced the dough ‘too stiff’ for their liking. I also found it a bit off-putting, and the empanada was not as much of a hit as the potato.

We enjoyed these ‘gems’ and hope to find the Peruvian food truck near UVU again sometime very soon, as I am anxious to try the tamale and the Queen’s avocado.

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