The Manila Machine
On a toasty Tuesday a few weeks back (yes, one of very few this entire "summer"), I—along with our trusty photographer Jen—ventured to an even toastier North Hollywood. Why the trek to the dreaded Valley, you might ask? To try out L.A.'s first Filipino food truck, the Manila Machine, of course!
Parked on Lankershim by Weddington, the truck was inviting not just with its joyous orange and purple facade, but with its incredibly welcoming owners on-board. Not only have Nastassia Johnson and Marvin Gapultos become food truck rovers extraordinaire, these multitalented Filipino-Americans are also fellow food bloggers, of Let Me Eat Cake and Burnt Lumpia, respectively.
"We noticed that there seemed to be a lack of Filipino food that was accesible. Sure you can find some Filipino restaurants in Glendale or in Carson but unless you are Filipino, you probably do not even know they exist. We both agreed that Filipino cuisine deserved a place in the L.A. culinary scene," Nastassia said. The Manila Machine officially launched at the June Downtown Art Walk, making history not only as Southern California's first Filipino food truck, but also as the first truck to be run by food bloggers.
We began with the lumpiang Shanghai. For those of you unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, lumpias are essentially the equivalent of Chinese spring rolls. Made with pork, carrots, and ginger, these marvelously crisp starters were served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce.
Next, we moved onto the chicken adobo. This traditional Filipino dish consists of a bed of jasmine rice, topped with a juicy piece of breast meat which has been glazed with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, and green onions. With each tender bite, I became increasingly nostalgic of my days in Manila... oh wait, I've never been...
What L.A. food truck would be complete without some variation of a slider? The Manila Machine's offering incorporates a traditional pan de sal roll, instead of a standard hamburger bun. While they were sold out of the popular longganisa (a sausage similar to chorizo) variety, we went for the "Original Manila Dip," which included a generous piece of chicken adobo, topped with caramelized onions. Beef- and spam-based sliders are available, too.
For dessert, we started with the turon, which is essentially a banana coated in a crisp egg roll wrapper, and drizzled over with caramel sauce. To call it an indulgent treat would be a massive understatement.
Perhaps best of all, however, were the ube (purple yam) cupcakes. Baked fresh daily, these babies were perfectly fluffy, moist and sweet—a combination often hard to come by. There's only a modest coating of coconut frosting on these purplicious treats, which eliminates the potential issue of collapsing from sugar overload, a fear we've long associated with bakeries like Sprinkles and Crumbs.
Food trucks are a dime a dozen in L.A., but the Manila Machine gets the job done right—and at affordable prices. On our way out, we noticed an interesting message in Tagalog on the back of the truck, which read "Sarap! Sarap!" We later learned that this translates to "Delcious! Delicious!" Sarap, sarap, indeed!
Photos by Jennifer Saracino.
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