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31Aug/104

Manila Machine

The Manila Machine behind Decades

When The Manila Machine tweeted that they'd be serving lunch behind Decades and DecadesTwo - a mere minute's walk from my house - I knew I'd be a fool not to head over there. The truck had been summoned to the vintage designer clothing store for a Filipino fashion meetup. We arrived at the tail end of the party - only one guy remained, as well as a photo crew from the LA Times Style section, who promised The Manila Machine's Nastassia Johnson and Marvin Gapultos that their writeup would be in the paper next week.

The Manila Machine's Nastassia and Marvin

Nastassia and Marvin are fellow food bloggers who decided they wanted to sling food as well as write about it. Nastassia writes at Let Me Eat Cake, while Marvin's blog is Burnt Lumpia. They launched The Manila Machine on June 10: it features Filipino street food. I'd been wanting to try lumpia - deep-fried Filipino egg rolls with vegetable, meat or fruit fillings - so I was especially excited that the Manila Machine had come to my neck of the woods.

Side of The Manila Machine

Sadly, they were all out of sisig and veggie lumpia by the time we showed up. We got two Original Manila Dip sliders (two for $5); two longganisa sliders (again, two for $5); one beef tapa slider ($3); an order of lumpia Shanghai ($2); and turon ($3), which wasn't on the menu, but which Nastassia advised us to order. It consisted of two dessert lumpia stuffed with jackfruit and saba banana (a type of banana native to the Philippines), and drizzled with caramel.

Turon at the Manila Machine

The lumpia Shanghai were tiny and crispy, and filled with seasoned shredded pork, carrots and spicy ginger. Shredded pork can dry out pretty easily, but these stayed nice and juicy, and had a subtle bite to them without being so spicy that they set this white girl's mouth on fire.

Lumpia Shanghai at The Manila Machine

Because of my husband's aversion to mayo, we got the beef tapa slider without its accompanying sriracha mayonnaise. We both agreed that it would have been better with the condiment. The beef was flavored with calamansi lime, a Filipino variety of the citrus fruit, and was tangy and chewy - it was delicious on its own, but a dash of something creamy and spicy would have complimented it beautifully. The pan de sal rolls -- on which all the sliders came -- were floury and drier than the average American burger bun, especially for those of us used to King's Hawaiian rolls. Because the beef, chicken, and sausage in the sliders was already sweet-tasting, pan de sal was a much better choice for these sandwiches than a sweet roll would have been.

Beef and Sausage Sliders at The Manila Machine

The longganisa slider contained sweet pork and garlic sausage (like Filipino chorizo), caramelized onions, arugula and mango jam. The sausage was tender (that's what she said), with nary a piece of gristle to be found.

Chicken Slider at The Manila Machine

The Original Manila Dip slider came with a side of adobo sauce. "Make sure you dip it," advised Nastassia as she handed us the sandwich through the truck window. It was perfect: melt-in-your-mouth stewed chicken, caramelized onions and floury bun, all dunked in a sweet-and-sour sauce. I dipped and dipped again.

I managed to hold off on eating the turon till I was done with my "real" food. The texture of the jackfruit-and-banana filling was firm and custardy. My only complaint was that the portion was a bit large - or maybe it was just that I'd miscalculated how full I'd be by the time I got to it.

At the end of our visit, food-truck aficionado extraordinaire Joni Yeung showed up to grab a slider and a cupcake, and dispensed some of her wisdom regarding mobile eateries, including how best to navigate a multitruck event (when eating tacos, forgo the tortillas, so you'll have more room in your stomach to hit up other trucks).

I plan to have the veggie lumpia next time The Manila Machine comes round my way. I'm also curious about the Filipino fruit drinks the truck has in its soda area - a calamansi lime drink sounds very refreshing. I'll have to try it in the future.

Manila Machine menu

Photos by Oliver Seldman

15Jul/101

LA Street Food Fest 2: July 24

LA Street Food Fest crowd at February's event

It's coming up soon - the second installment of the LA Street Food Fest. For round number 2, the Fest has moved from LA Center Studios to the Rose Bowl. This time, the good eats won't be marred by long lines and sold-out noms - there are only a few thousand presale tickets available, you can only purchase them online, and one price gets you all you can eat, rather than your having to wait - and then pay - at the trucks and carts once you get in. The event's also in the evening (from 5:30 to 9 PM), so there's less chance of frying in the hot sun, as queuers and eaters did at the last LA Street Food Fest in February. While you eat, you can watch a concert, vote in the Vendys-style cook-off, and hang out in the beer garden. Ooh, and the entry price includes free parking, a boon at any festival-type event.

Food truck-wise, all your favorites will be there: here's the complete list. Top three trucks I'm most excited about hitting: The Manila Machine, to try their lumpia (Filipino egg rolls); the Fox Pizza Bus, to get some wood-fired pie from a double-decker; and The Mighty Boba Truck, because I'm always up for some milk tea. Top three trucks I already love and will be hitting at the Fest: the Gastrobus, for their awesome daily specials like the plum juice they had recently; Louks, whose pitas I just cannot praise highly enough; and Coolhaus, because even though their free-ice-cream-sandwich days appear to be over for now, I will gladly pay full price for their balsamic fig and mascarpone ice cream.

Visit the LA Street Food Fest website for more information.