The Fare: Vietnamese and Filipino cuisine.
The Stop: Xplosive befittingly made its debut at this past weekend’sMobile Food Rodeo. Yielding some of the longest lines, food truck owners Cathy and Romano Basilio have a few key things going for them:
1) The novelty concept of a hybrid of Filipino and Vietnamese food: The owners are shrewdly tapping into Seattle’s love of Vietnamese food with signature dishes such as noodle bowls and lemongrass pork sandwiches, and then mixing it with a lesser known cuisine, Filipino, which has influences from Spain, East Asia, and America.
The banh mi, the iconic Vietnamese sandwich that comes loaded with cucumbers, cilantro, pickled carrot and daikon, is traditionally served with pork. But Xplosive lets you opt for the Filipino chicken adobo rendition which greets you with a filling of tender shredded chicken cooked in vinegar and soy sauce. Loaded with vegetables and encased in an uber-long baguette, the combination is spot on.
2) The neatly-lined rows of Asian snacks: Snack lovers will be distracted by bags of dried mangos, chocolate-filled cookies shaped like pandas, shrimp chips and more lining the front of the truck. These are the snacks I remember my parents buying me when I behaved myself during our long drawn out excursions at the Asian grocery store.
3) Eye candy: Move over skanky-bikini-barista stands. Cute and classy are the new hotness. The congenial twenty something chicks working truck, mostly friends and family of the Basilios, add an unavoidable element of appeal.
Although Xplosive is this married couple’s first joint venture, Cathy and Romano are not new to the food scene. Cathy grew up working at her mom’s Vietnamese restaurant, A Little Bit of Saigon, which she owned for 25 years (and is now the popular Tamarind Tree), while her hubby grew up helping his mom with a food catering business.
In addition to the cutely lined snacks, the menu line-up has a creative spin: Grenade banh mi sliders, Filipino beef steak tacos, and Xplosive chicken adobo fried rice make it hard to decide what to get. If you do not like to deviate from the norm, the Basilios will hook you and your safety blanket up with traditional banh mi sandwiches and rice noodle vermicelli bowls. I also hear Vietnamese pancakes, one of my favorite Southeast Asian dishes, are also in the works.
What was the standout? The couple was previewing a subset of their menu over the weekend so I elatedly consumed everything they were offering: Tacos, a vermicelli rice bowl, and a banh mi sandwich. But if you threatened to cut off my fingers if I didn’t name my favorite, I would declare the pork taco as the winner, and then flip you off while running away with both of my middle fingers still intact. Take that, you creep.
Look out for this Vietnamese-Filipino truck delight to hit both West Side and East side locations such as South Lake Union and Bellevue, starting in October.
First published via Seattle Weekly on September 18th.