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Asparagus with candied bacon and a poached egg with dukkah.
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Mussels and frites
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Some like it hot. That someone is chef Adam Hynam-Smith and he’s kind of a big deal. But you wouldn’t know it with his gentle-giant demeanour and charming Aussie accent.
He was the trailblazer, one of the first to open gourmet food trucks in Canada. Since then, he’s introduced his take on global street food to the masses and forever changed the culinary landscape. Yeah, he’s that guy – owner of El Gastronomo Vagabundo, purveyor of fantastic food on wheels.
Back to that radiant heat emanating from Bestellen last Monday night. Rob Rossi graciously lent his restaurant to Hynam-Smith so he could the launch his first cookbook, Curbside: Modern Street Food From A Vagabond Chef ($32,95, Whitecap). Covering eats from Morocco to Thailand, the book is a veritable ode to the rich diversity of street food around the world.
The launch party was rammed with doting fans, industry supporters and food enthusiasts. The only thing missing? Air conditioning. It was hot in there, kid of like Hynam-Smith’s food.
Out of his book’s 170 recipes, he chose to showcase five fiery dishes to this buzzing, frenetic crowd. With the walls vibrating dubstep and dance, it felt more like a congested club than a restaurant. Butonce the food began streaming out of the kitchen, the crowds calmed.
Hynam-Smith covered the spectrum of his cooking repertoire. Memorable dishes included a precious poached egg emboldened with an earthy dukkah dredge. It sat on asparagus spears dressed with a vinegar-y tarragon sauce. The dish was finished with a wavy-ridged candied bacon slice. It was a great showcase of flavour balance and textural play.
But then came those maddening mussels. All that effort for a minimal payload. The ratios were off in this dish. A heap of caramelized onions smothered five measly shelled morsels. Although, it came with a trough of family-style fries, they were unevenly cooked: some soft and sad, others adequately crisp.
Redemption came in the form of one luxurious, braised pork belly dish. Lacquered with golden chili caramel, the piggy slab was a spicy, sweet and salty wonderland. The mountain of refreshing green papaya salad was the ideal counterpoint to the heady protein.
Overall, I’d say chef is on fire. The crowd sentiment was joyful and understandably so. He’s so happy and friendly – you can’t help but root for the guy.
While I champion cookbooks that hinge on precision and specificity (my fav is The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart), I’d give this book a buy. Whether you’re a food truck fan, novice cook or master chef, there are handy tips and a Mise en Place section to help you tackle any recipe. And you’ll come away with a profound appreciation for all the hard work and prep that goes into a food truck. They make it far easier than it looks.