Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taiwanese pork chops and fried chicken (便當 Bian Dang Truck)

The truck

I bet you thought that I'd lost interest in writing about Chinese food that comes from trucks since I haven't done it in forever. HA were you wrong! My favorite kinds of food are Asian foods, and the best foods always come from trucks. Fact. Luckily for me, the 便當 Bian Dang Truck combines both of those things. Their niche? They make "traditional" Taiwanese bento boxes from which you can choose either pork chop, fried chicken, fishcake, or several other appetizers my forefathers often delighted in like 粽子 (zong zi). Basically they have several things going for them... the nostalgia factor, the fact that they make food from the Orient, and the fact that they do it all from the back of a flamboyantly colored truck (the greatest kind of coloring). Basically this is a truck that fries pigs and chickens and puts it over rice. In theory, this truck is packing so much win. When I caught wind that they were selling their pork chop and fried chicken dishes for $5 one week, I felt obligated to at least try it.

The menu

The menu! Again, The main things are the fried chicken leg and the pork chop over rice. They have 甜不辣 (tian bu la) too, but after trying it at Food Gallery 32... let me safely say that it tastes like crap. Do you know why people don't eat erasers? Because they don't taste good. That is basically what you're eating, an eraser that is brushed with oil and reheated in a microwave. If that sounds good to you, more power to ya! Get the fishcake. Otherwise, steer clear. The rest of the menu is pretty conservative in terms of Taiwanese fare. Sorry, I'll never be able to tell you how the 滷肉飯 (minced pork over rice) is solely based on principle. A dish that costs 60 cents in Taiwan should not cost $4. I don't care if it's NYC, that just doesn't gel with me.

Pork chop over rice

Ah yes, the special of the week and the star of the menu. The pork chop over rice. There's not much to complain about in the base of this delicious construction. The rice is cooked properly, and when combined with the pork sauce/pickled veggie mix... well, it's awesome. There's not much to say about that. The pork chop is no slouch either, not the deep-fried kind you'll find at Hua Ji, 便當 Bian Dang Truck's version is tender, juicy, and slathered with a subtle yet noticeably sweet thick soy sauce marinade. Cooked long enough for the meat to separate easily from the bone, but short enough to maintain structural integrity, these guys know how to cook their pigs. At $5, I liked it enough to change my clothes, go back, and circumvent their whole "ONE DEAL PER CUSTOMER" nonsense. Yep, the stupid things I do for food.


Everyone knows that meals that consist of multiple types of meats are the best kinds of meals. Turducken, bacon chicken narwhals, McDonald's McNuggets (god knows what goes into those...). The Bian Dang Truck also serves something not listed on their menu known as "Porken." You're probably wondering... "what is this shit, and why isn't on the menu?" Well, it's basically a combination of their two most popular dishes, the fried chicken and the pork chop. Starting with a pillow-y soft bed of white rice, you drizzle on a heap of pork sauce and pickled vegetables, then you get half-a-piece of the fried chicken and half-a-piece of the pork chop... all for $8 (note: this deal used to be so much better when they'd give you the whole pork chop/chicken). Admittedly, it's not that great. The pork chop is definitely good (as it should be), and I've never met a bowl of rice w/pork sauce I didn't like, but the fried chicken was just... meh. It was crispy, but it was also flavorless and sort of dry. Add in the fact that the portion size to cost ratio isn't even close to that of other places in Chinatown, and I was a little bit let down. It's like eating an Entenmann's donut for the price of Doughnut Plant. I enjoyed eating it, I just wished I paid less for it.

Anyway... I'm not sure how to feel about the 便當 Bian Dang Truck. I think it's pimp that Taiwanese food is getting well deserved attention in NYC, and for sure they make a rockin' pork chop, but I really can't agree with the pricing structure (at regular price). I can understand that things in Manhattan naturally cost more, but man... I'd go back all the time if they toned back their prices just a bit. Also, they need to fix their fishcake. That shit is wack.


AnonVeg2 said...

Wow! That's not a whole lot of food for $5. Maybe it's because I'm not from NYC, but I generally expect to get a butt-load more stomach filling goodness from street food. But, there is much to be said for the virtues of pickled greens with pork done right on a bed of deliciously fluffy and sticky carbs. If only NY residents had a 99 Ranch Market to take care of those needs for $3/bowl.

Question, is there reason that "tianbula" translates directly to "sweet, not spicy"? I've always wondered whether it was just a phonetic thing of "tempura" or whether they needed a disclaimer back years ago to trick children into eating the stuff.

Unknown said...

Yeah... the fishcake was really gross, very fishy. The secret meat sauce was meh also, I don't understand why people rave about it. I think the pricing structure is OK for NYC food truck, but the food is not too fulfilling.

susan said...

The cart is always near my school on tuesday and my friend's porkchop over rice AAALWAYS smells amazing. Might give it a try one day but part of me wants to save the extra $2 and just get chicken over rice from a halal cart

Rodzilla said...

kind of surprised you didn't go fishcake.

Nicholas said...

AnonVeg2 - I think the proportions in my pics are deceptive. For $5 I think it's fine. For $7 it is not.

Uh, I think tianbula is a loanword from "tempura," but appropriately enough, with the reddish-orange sauce it is indeed sweet and not really spicy.

Ariel - the meat sauce as in the 滷肉飯? I like the pickled veggies, but that's really hard to screw up. And rice... that's hard to screw up too.

susan - haha VALUE. Chicken and rice is way more filling, but also potentially worse for you.

Rodzilla - uh... I did? It is not very good.

Rodzilla said...

I missed a paragraph because I reed and right good.

Patrick @ Appetite for Good said...

Im personally mixed about this truck... but one thing for sure is that it confused the HELL OUT OF ME. no one gave me the memo that nyc cravings changed their name to this... so the entire time i was like o0o0o0o new pork chop over rice truck! how awesome!

Anonymous said...

I tried once when they were still called nyc cravings. I hated that fact that they used jasmine rice!!! Just out of curiosity, are they still using it?

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