4 Wheels, 5 Meals: Maui Food Trucks

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My friend Betty always said I should own a lunch truck, but in the seventies, portable food wasn’t exactly, well, chic. Forty years later, visualize a twenty-first-century lunch truck’s hot dog and fries: ‘dogs wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, topped with homemade Maui pineapple chutney, Kula veggie kimchee and local mustard, all nestled in a soft white bun; and killer french fries with spicy sriracha (Thai chili sauce) mayo, sprinkled with sesame-seaweed furikake (seasoning) and crunchy arare (Japanese rice crackers). Armed with spatulas and chopsticks, samurai-like chefs on wheels vie for your next meal. And it ain’t all chili and rice.

Slightly Salty Gourmet Food Truck

best maui food trucksHo man, he can cook! Chef Lanning Terrell, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Texas, traveled far and wide before landing on Maui to set up shop with his gourmet food truck. He worked at Savoy Grill for Chef Gordon Ramsey in London, then opened restaurants for Ramsey in New York and Los Angeles. No wonder the food is good! My fave, a big, crispy Southwest-style crab-cake patty smeared with citrus aioli, is draped on a brioche bun and garnished with crunchy onion rings and the freshest butter crunch lettuce, creamy avocado and sweet Kamuela tomatoes. Or try a house-made pasta with sauteed shrimp, sweet, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil folded into a made-to-order rich and cheesy Alfredo sauce. Chef’s french fries are hand-cut, prepared in the classic French style, deep-fried twice to preserve crunchiness, not the frozen kind your throw into oil, wait five minutes and pau. Chef even has a local-style shoyu-marinated grilled-chicken plate lunch with two scoops rice and macaroni salad. Portions are generous, prices great, too.

591 Haleakala Hwy., Kahului
310-913-1845 • facebook.com/slightlysalty

Maui Fresh Streatery

Maui food trucksBorn and raised on Maui, and a former chef instructor at Maui Culinary Academy, Kyle Kawakami is having way too much fun unleashing culinary classics. Imagine pan-frying seventy Kansai-style street pancakes, each garnished with Japanese mayo, delicate fish flakes, and okonomiyaki  sauce — and doing so out of a lunch truck in just two hours!

I recently had the portobello mushroom bahn mi sando with roasted-garlic sriracha aioli and Upcountry pickled root vegetables; chargrilled with flecks of caramelized shoyu marinade, it was shot through with flavor. The menu changes, but a mainstay is Chef Kyle’s poutine (crunchy french fries with fresh mozzarella and homemade gravy); the toppings change, too. I dove into the tender braised short ribs and sauteed Maui onions, and I gained a pound, but it was worth it!

Chef’s tip jar funds various nonprofits and families in need, with donations totaling around $5,500 since August 2013. “I thought back to when I was growing up here on Maui and how tight knit our community was. Maui Fresh Streatery is my vehicle to reestablish some of that aloha spirit.”

137 E. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului (at Ilima Shell gas station)
808-344-7929 • www.mauifreshstreatery.com

Like Poke?

Maui poke food truckSo the guy next to me is eating this humongous plate lunch: two strips of fried ‘ahi belly lightly dusted in flour and fried to a golden brown. It’s blanketed with plantation-style tomato onion salad doused in a salty-sour shoyu vinegar sauce with white rice on the side. I gotta have it. Home-style to the max, Like Poke? buys ‘ahi from Maui fishermen, or flies it in fresh from the Big Island to serve local folks incredible meal deals. Coconut-curry ‘ahi katsu is a fan favorite, with sauce slathered generously over the crisp battered fish chunks. Chef-owner Danny Kalahiki is passionate about his foodpreparation. (How passionate? If he can’t get fresh, poke-grade fish, it won’t be on the menu—even if it’s on the side of the truck.) The result? “Real local food” comes through in every bite.

“I went through four years of culinary school on the mainland; when I came back, no one was making simple, quality local food.” Growing up in a restaurant family who owned three okazuya, Kalahiki says, “This food is a throwback to what I ate.”

Don’t leave without trying the sticky-rice pudding, a secret recipe from John the coconut candy man in Kahakuloa.

591 Haleakala Hwy., Kahului
808-757-2239 • https://www.facebook.com/www.Likepoke

Big Beach BBQ

maui pulled pork sandwichFormer global fitness executive Jerry Lauther is doing killer BBQ for the masses, and having the time of his life. Shimmy up to the juicy kiawe-smoked pork, which is dry-rubbed with Lauther’s homemade, gluten-free BBQ spice blend and tucked into warm corn tortillas, or nestled in baked purple taro bread rolls. Fresh island fish tacos come layered with Lauther’s special Big Island slaw, made with sweet Kula cabbage, red bell peppers and Maui Gold pineapple, doused in a mayo-less papaya-seed dressing, then topped off with local tomatoes, onions and pineapple pico de gallo, sans dairy.

Fun in the kitchen for Lauther is creating hot sauces with all-natural Maui fruit flavors, blending dried and homegrown fresh chilies with guava, mango, pineapple, liliko‘i, and citrus. Most popular are the sweet, smoky guava-chipotle and spicy mango-habanero. If you like “Kilauea lava flow” heat, Lauther’s special-reserve hot sauce may be the one for you. Hot sauces are made weekly in small batches, bright, fresh flavors exploding like Starburst fruit chews.

Big Beach, Makena
808-264-6332 • www.facebook.com/Bigbeachbbq

Shark Pit

maui taco truckShark Pit food truck, where mammals circle in feeding frenzies, is just what Chef Chris Mahon envisioned, and yes, they (we) are circling. Located near China Boat restaurant in Kahana, the tiny food truck puts out themost awesome food that’s bursting with flavor. The organic and sustainable menu serves a decadent soft-shell taco filled with sauteed tropical-fruit-and-chipotle-rubbed fish. Topped with a crunchy Asian slaw and a raspberry-vinegar reduction, it meets the flavor requirements of sweet, sour, and umami. Or how about an East-meets-West experience: Portuguese sausage and Japanese kabayakimeatball taco. Buy one of each. I loved the world-famous Flyin’ Hawaiian cheesesteak sandwich: sautéed red peppers, sweet Maui onions and Hamakua mushrooms topping griddled Kaua‘i grass-fed beef, swiss cheese, Korean kalbi sauce and wasabi aioli. For snacking, kamikaze-grilled corn takes a crispy twist with garlic-mayo, wasabi and furikake. I’ll bite!

4482 Lower Honoapi‘ilani Hwy., Kahana
(808) 298-7776 • www.sharkpitmaui.com

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