Puerto Rico: Home of the Food Truck Phenomenon?
The food truck craze that has taken over the United States may have well started in Puerto Rico. On La Isla del Encanto, food trucks are everywhere. "Food trucks have been in Puerto Rico for at least ten years," my travel companion explained.
El Churry, in the city of Rio Piedra, is one of the most popular food trucks in Puerto Rico. It stations itself in the evenings on a grimy city street by the metro campus of the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico and stays open until 3 or 4 a.m. with lines that stretch almost a full city block.
Although El Churry serves burgers and chicken sandwiches, it's most popular item is the Tripleta. A tripleta is a Puerto Rican sandwich, comparable in fame and popularity to a Media Noche or a Reuben. Unlike those two sandwiches though, there are dozens of variations depending on what part of the island you're on. The sandwich's name just refers to the fact that it contains three kinds of meat.
El Churry's line sometimes stretches for longer than a city block.
At the El Churry truck, the tripleta was made with chicken breast, steak, and pork. In other places a tripleta could be made with ham, chicken, and steak, or pork, steak, and ham, and so on. El Churry's tripleta was good and tasted somewhat like a Philly chicken and steak sub. The best thing about it though was that the sandwich was made using Puerto Rican bread (which I have grown to love). It's almost exactly like Cuban bread, but softer.
Tripleta sandwich from El Churry: A triple threat of steak, pork, and chicken breast.
The day before we left the island, we were driving down Carretera No. 2 (State Road 2) towards the town of Camuy. We were on the way to take a tour of Las Cuevas de Camuy - the deepest, most beautiful caves in all of Puerto Rico -- when I saw a food truck on the side of the road in the small seaside town of Hatillo. "They have food trucks even way out here in the country?" I asked my partner incredulously. She shook her head at my childlike wonder which she was about to taint with her cynicism. "Puerto Rico has food trucks everywhere. It's not a trend."
Of course, I had to stop. El Rincon del Mar (The Corner of the Sea) was a more advanced food truck than El Churry. El Rincon had churrasco, mofongo, seafood stew, and a dozen or so other full-on dinner entrées. The truck was to the side of the road and it had its own little tented seating area with plastic tables and chairs. From the looks of things, you would have thought that El Rincon created dishes to die for - there were no seats available and at least six people standing around waiting for take-out orders, plus people kept coming and going.
Shrimp "salad" in Hatillo, PR.
As I have found with some food trucks here in town, El Rincon's food was pure hype -- although, I did find out an interesting bit of information. I ordered the shrimp salad, thinking that this would be some mayo, lime, or vinaigrette based shrimp concoction, only to be sorely disappointed when I received a white plastic cup full of iceberg lettuce supporting a half dozen shrimp and a lime wedge. My fiancée, ever so eager to point out my naiveté, explained to me that what I sorrowfully held in my hands was indeed a shrimp "salad."
"But, it's just iceberg and lime," I whined. "Yes," she said, knowing full well that she was about to deliver a shattering blow. "And that is a salad in Puerto Rico."
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