I first got “pho cup’d” at the Haute Wheels food truck festival a couple of years ago. An ill-fated event for many, I arrived early enough that I pretty much had my pick of the litter and managed to add a bowl of pho and a banh mi sandwich to my haul of burgers, hot dogs, and tacos. My next encounter with the Phamily Bites food truck would be while they were parked at Liberty Station and I had what might have been the perfect drunk food morsel: spam and egg musubi. But then my radar went dark, the chatter quiet. They became elusive prey to my food truck predations, though the Phamily Bites crew have been going strong ever since. Elusive, that is, until they partnered up with the young Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. to help celebrate the brewery’s 1st anniversary and serve savory Vietnamese fare to the drinking hordes.
Trees along Nolda and the passing cloud provided respite from the sun’s rays on a warm January afternoon, and as the day wore on and the ABV’s piled up, brewery visitors could be counted on to bring hungry bellies and gaping wallets to the food truck’s windows. Thankfully, unlike Haute Wheels, the lines stretched back, not into a sprawling concrete wasteland, but into an oasis of cold, exotic brews. Working in pairs, those standing in line could keep their thirst slaked while waiting to order. The able bodies in the hotbox kept things moving pretty briskly though, and had an array of small bites, musubi, and banh mi on offer. A friend of mine from high school, Frederick Ercia, was taking orders that day and has reached the summit of alumni newsletter notoriety, having earned an eponymous item on the menu, a double spicy version of the musubi. I expect a campus building to be named after him shortly. Perhaps the dining hall. It looked like many elected to go with pretty much one of everything, but my buddy and I stuck with a sandwich each, the Vandalizer for him and chargrilled pork for myself.
First, a word on that musubi. Spam, perhaps unfairly, gets many an upturned nose. But the spiced ham is quite popular, especially in Hawaiian cuisine. Here the teriyaki marinated meat slices get fried up, set atop sushi rice seasoned with furikake, a spice blend of dried fish, seaweed, sesame, sugar and salt. In the finest Vietnamese tradition, where nothing is immune to being topped with a fried egg, the Roybeezee version gets just such a treatment and, conveniently wrapped in nori paper, makes the perfect bar grub conveyance.
We needed a full sandwich that day at the brewery though, and my standard chargrilled pork (banh mi thit nuong) was expertly marinated and wedged between the toothsome baguette with pickled carrots, cucumber, and jalapeños, slathered with mayo, sprinkled with cilantro, and I couldn’t help adding a fried egg (cha), adding that soft richness to the crispy components. Execution may have suffered a bit from volume-induced haste, and while I was no less satisfied with my thit nuong, my buddy came away a bit disappointed in his Vandalizer, what should be a theoretically incredible sandwich: Vietnamese shaking beef (bo luc lac) on a bun. Normally a plated dish consisting of tender, buttery cubes of beef marinated in a blend of spices, soy sauce, and usually a spritz of lime on a bed of rice, a portable version on a baguette is a thing of simple genius.
I’ll have to seek that one out for myself, provided the gap between visits to Phamily Bites isn’t as long this time around.