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Cuisine Decoder Greek

by 24. March 2015 09:31

This week's Cuisine Decoder is Greek! If someone were to ask you what you know about Greece, would your answer include breaking plates and yelling, “OPA”? While that is a fun part of the culture, there is so much more to consider- particularly the food! Never fear, the cuisine decoder his here. Whether you realize it or not, the fresh, light Mediterranean ingredients in Greek dishes have become a favorite across the globe – and have even served as the basis of the famous Mediterranean Diet. While many restaurants in America will blend Italian and Greek dishes, and offer varieties of both, Greek cuisine does have very distinctive flavors and ingredients.


Have you ever eaten olives, had a slice of pita bread, come to enjoy feta cheese topping your salad, or cooked with olive oil? If so, you have experienced four staples in Greek cuisine. In addition to the olives and cheese, other staples of Greek cooking include yogurt, fresh vegetables and herbs, wine, fish, and varieties of meat such as lamb, poultry, rabbit, and pork. These ingredients combine to skillfully create some of the most popular dishes in Greek Cuisine:


Greek Salad: A salad that can be found on a variety of menus, it typically consists of tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, onion and ham. It is often topped with oregano and is accompanied by olive oil.


Gyros: A popular food found at fairs and festivals (and our own food truck rallies with Rolling GyRoGormet and The Famous Greek), is meat roasted and sliced from a turning spit and is wrapped in pita bread along with garnishes such as tomato and onions, and certain sauces.


Moussaka: Moussaka is a heartier casserole dish, and is the quid essential meat and potatoes dish. It is made of typically fried potatoes and spiced minced meat. There are other versions that include vegetables such as eggplant.


Souvlaki: The name literally means “skewer.” Souvlaki can include any kind of grilled meat that is served on skewer. This can range from lamb, chicken, pork, fish, or shrimp. As it is being grilled, the meat is typically marinated in oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and lemon- ensuring the flavoring of the meat is robust.  


While Greek cuisine has a tradition that dates back to ancient times, it has found its place in American dining- and many diners may not have even realized it. Next time you are visiting a Tampa Bay Food Truck rally event, or even visiting a brick and mortar restaurant, be sure to take a look at the menu and see if you can spot Greek influences. 

Cuisine Decoder Jamaican

by 13. March 2015 09:35

With our Cuisine Decoder series hopefully we have stirred your interest into trying some different foods. In this article we bring you “Cuisine Decoder Jamaican”! Quite often, as Floridians, we take for granted the wide variety of cultures and cuisines that can be found right in our “backyard.” Whether it is Cuban, Cajun, or Jamaican, there is a plethora of flavors and dishes that have become a part of the Florida lifestyle. Jamaican cuisine, in particular, brings the Caribbean lifestyle alive through its choice of ingredients, techniques, and flavor profiles. The irony is that, to most Floridians, Jamaican cooking is representative of the Caribbean when in fact, it is representative of a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from, not only the indigenous people on the island, but also the Spanish, British, Indian, African, and Chinese settlers who have come to inhabit the island throughout the island’s history.

Jamaican Cuisine 

There are several dishes that have found their way into America’s culinary mainstream – dishes such as Jamaican patties, curry goat, fried dumplings, salt fish, fried plantains, “jerk” chicken, steamed cabbage, and rice with peas.


Jerk Chicken (or other meat): A meat such as chicken, pork, beef, or various seafood such as fish or shrimp, is either dry rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture referred to “Jamaican Jerk Spice.” The spice blend is a unique combination of all spice, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic and salt.


Jamaican Patties: Jamaican patties is pastry that has come to contain a variety of fillings and spices, all of which are baked into a flaky outer shell that is often found to have a golden yellow tint from egg yolk mixture or turmeric. It is fairly equivalent to the familiar turnover, but is savory- as it can be filled with ground beef, chicken, lamb, shrimp, lobster, fish, vegetables, and/or cheese. Frequently a Jamaican patty is served as a full meal.


Rice and Peas: The most important thing to realize about this essential Jamaican dish is that the "peas" are not garden peas as the title would indicate, but rather dried legumes that are more commonly referred to as beans in English. The “peas” are boiled with allspice and garlic until they are tender. The rice is then added with salt, pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, onion, ginger and coconut milk. The combination is left to simmer until fully cooked.


Jamaican cuisine does not shy away from bold and spicy flavors - as indicated by the common use of scotch bonnet peppers. So, if you are up for trying something new and are not afraid of a little heat, Jamaican cuisine might just be for you!

Cuisine Decoder Filipino

by 11. March 2015 02:20

Have you found a new taste that has piqued your interest through our new culinary decoder? Whether it was Arepas, Cajun dishes, or Cuban Cuisine and the Cuban Sandwich, hopefully you have! If not, maybe Filipino will be the party in your mouth you’ve been waiting for!


To some, the food of the Philippines may be thought of as “unique.” In many restaurant and culinary circles, the dreaded F-word—fusion—is usually reserved to describe some sort of disparate multi-culti combination that is curious and may or may not make sense. While many may be quick to put a label of “weird” on Filipino cuisine, something similar could be said of a wide variety of cuisines- especially one that evokes creativity in technique, ingredients and the blending of various regions or heritages. No sound bite can accurately answer the one question Filipinos get plenty: What is Filipino food?Philipino Food


As with most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice. Rice is often enjoyed with the sauce or broth from the main dishes. To compliment the rice, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are often used. Bananas, guavas, mangoes, papayas, and pineapples, do well to lend a distinctly tropical flair in many dishes- even among their vegetable counterparts such as green leafy water spinach, Chinese cabbage, Napa cabbage, eggplants, and yard-long beans.


The meat staples that pair with the wide selection of fruit and vegetables can include chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Seafood is particularly popular as dictated by the geography. The most common way of having fish is to have it salted, pan-fried or deep-fried, and then eaten as a simple meal with rice and some of the vegetables previously mentioned.


Finally, food is very commonly served with a variety of dipping sauces that vary from vinegar, soy sauce, juice squeezed from Philippine lime, or a combination of two or more. Fish sauce, fish paste, shrimp paste, and crushed ginger root are condiments that are often added to dishes when they are served. If you are looking for a great place to eat with some delicious Pilipino food, try out PAO Café In Lake Magdalene just a little north of Downtown Tampa FL or see them at one of our local rally’s with their food truck PAO. 

Cuisine Decoder Cuban Sandwich

by 3. March 2015 09:31

For those who struggle to step outside of their culinary comfort zone, our cuisine decoder series has so far explored the Arepas and the ins and outs of Cajun cuisine. Now, it is time to digest what Cuban food has to offer!


One of the biggest keys to understanding Cuba’s cuisine starts with understanding the history and diversity of its people. Cuba’s cuisine has undoubtedly been influenced by its culture. From the Afro-Caribe influenced eastern region of Santiago de Cuba, to the Spanish influenced western region of Havana, its people are as diverse as its food. Cuba’s regionally abundant crops and resources are reflected heavily in its dishes. It is said that the food is simply a reflection of the Cuban people: “simple and straightforward, yet vibrant and diverse with flavors of life.”


Most often, a typical Cuban meal consists of rice and beans, which can be cooked either together or apart. A main course typically contains either pork or beef, such as the popular “Ropa Vieja.” Other staples in Cuban cuisine consist of yucca (a potato-like vegetable), potatoes, plantains (similar to a banana), corn, and salad elements such as tomato, lettuce, and avocado. Stews and soups can also be commonly found amongst traditional Cuban dishes.Tampa Cuban Sandwich


In regards to their flavorings and seasonings, Cuban cuisine uses citrus, tomato, vinegar, onion, garlic, peppers, white wine or beer (depending on region and dish), raisins and olives/capers to flavor almost every savory dish. This combination of flavor often results in complex flavors with sweet, salty and acidic components.


The Cuban Sandwich

Many Think of the Cuban Sandwich as Cuban, but in fact, it is not it was invented in Tampa Florida. The sandwich is built on a base of lightly buttered Cuban bread and contains sliced roast pork, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. In the Tampa area, it is not uncommon to find Genoa salami added to the layers of meat. It is assumed that this tradition started due to the influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cuban immigrants in Ybor City working in the cigar factories. Traditional American sandwich condiments such as tomato and lettuce can sometimes be found as side offerings, but traditionalists frown upon adding them. One of the best versions of the Cuban sandwich we have tasted is the Monte Castro from local Tampa Food Truck Dochos. The Monte Castro is a fried version of the Cuban Sandwich topped with sriracha and a smile. Be sure to see them at many of our Tampa Food Truck Rallies. 

Cuisine Decoder Cajun

by 26. February 2015 12:14

Recently, we introduced our Cuisine Decoder series that is meant to help customers become more familiar with the amazing variety of cuisines local Tampa Food Trucks offer, and hopefully encourage the culinary timid to step outside of their comfort zone to experience new and exciting dishes such as Cajun cuisine.

If you have never been to Louisiana, and hear the words Cajun or Creole, you probably think spicy, or so hot that you will start sweating. While spices are common in Cajun dishes, only a small amount of them bring the heat- yet, all of them bring flavor. Cajun, or creole, blends French, West African, Amerindian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian influences, as well as general Southern cuisine. Cajun food blends a short list of simple ingredients- such as a protein, vegetables, and herbs- into an amazingly flavorful dish that will have you craving more!

This rustic, comfort cuisine is often focuses on shrimp and/or pork sausage as their protein staples in many dishes. These proteins are usually blended with the “holy trinity” of Cajun flavor- the aromatic bell pepper, onion and celery- and the “pope” also known as garlic.

Roughly diced and combined in cooking, the method blends roughly diced onion, celery and carrot. Characteristic aromatics in addition can be added, such as parsley, bay leaf, green onions, dried cayenne pepper and dried black pepper.

Here are a few of the most popular Cajun dishes:

Shrimp Etouffee


Cajun term for smothered meat or seafood, cooked with a roux and the Cajun “Holy Trinity” (onions, 

celery, and bell pepper). Usually served with rice. The term is derived from the French verb “etouffer”, which means “to smother or suffocate.” This dish does not use any roux.

A Cajun/Creole delicacy of South Louisiana, reflecting its rich history: wild game or seafood (from the Acadians), thickened with okra (from the Africans), file (from the Indians), and roux (from the French). Called a “brown soup”, gumbos are made with just about any meat you can find. Meats such as duck, chicken, blackbirds, pork or deer sausage, tasso, andouille sausage or seafood can be used singly or in any combination.


A hearty dish of South Louisiana origin featuring a choice of meats (ham, sausage, shrimp, chicken, tasso), cooked with Trinity, tomato, and rice.

Cuisine Decoder Arepas

by 24. February 2015 03:17

“I’m not sure what that is.” “Hmmm…I would love to try something new, but I’d rather get something I know for sure I will like.” It is not uncommon to overhear such sentiments as you walk around a food truck rally. One of the best things about a rally is the wide variety of unique cuisines that are offered by our trucks on any given night. What if you could understand a bit more about a dish before you find yourself standing in front of a particular truck? Look no further!


Ever heard of an Arepa? An Arepa is a flatbread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela. The arepa is flat, round, unleavened bread type patty, which is made by soaking ground kernels of maize (corn), or maize meal or maize flour. It can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed.Arepas


Arepa is very often eaten daily in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela. It is similar in shape to the Mexican Gordita that you may be familiar with from visits to your local Taco Bell. The characteristics can vary by color, flavor, size, and the food with which it may be stuffed. The accompaniments can very often differ based on the region in which it is being served. It can be topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, cheese, avocado, shrimp, or fish depending on the meal. It can also be split and used to make sandwiches.


Often times, entire meals variations are offered around one ingredient, as is the case with the arepas. So, whether you are interested in trying it with just some cheese, or want to go all out with a little bit of everything, don’t hesitate to include an arepas in your next food truck meal adventure!