The day has not started out well. My socks don’t really match my slacks (that’s what happens when you get dressed in the dark) and now Zany and I are wandering aimlessly up 51st Street looking for a food truck that seems to have vanished.
We’re off our game. We’re hungry. We’re lost, and we just might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
“Mad Me-Shell would never have gotten lost looking for lunch,” points out Zany, exasperated.
“True, but I wasn’t the one who had the wrong address,” I respond peevishly. (I make a mental note that Zany still seems to be going through separation issues. Mad left us for the food truck desert of Chicago last August.)
Always the cool head in a crisis, Zany pulls out her mobile phone. “We’ve never had to call a lifeline before,” she mutters and dials up a colleague to get the proper coordinates for our target. NYC Cravings – A Taiwanese Food Truck is actually serving today on 50th Street.
We hustle one block over so I don’t faint from hunger on 6th Avenue. The chow line is substantial, which is interesting because NYC Cravings takes a simple, no-frills approach to street food – no fancy graphics or packaging, in fact, you take away your food in a basic brown paper bag.
The bill of fare is not as “precious” as some trucks. You’ve got about two choices – a Taiwanese-style fried pork chop over rice with pork sauce, and Taiwanese-style fried chicken over rice with pork sauce.
“Fried chicken with pork sauce?” I wonder out loud. “First of all, what’s pork sauce, and secondly, isn’t that a strange marriage of proteins?”
“The pork sauce is their secret recipe,” explains Zany, who’s been doing some research on the message boards. “Nobody knows what’s in it.” Judging from the looks of the line, I wonder if the secret ingredient is a controlled substance.
While we wait, I wax nostalgic about pork chops. “We always had Shake and Bake pork chops growing up,” I share.
“Did you help?” asks Zany, who is barely tolerating my hunger-inspired musings.
At last, we approach the window where there’s some frenetic prep work underway. We get a face full of steam. Good for the pores. We request an order of chicken, an order of pork, two tea eggs and a serving of pork dumplings. Within seconds, it’s all shoved in a brown paper bag and placed in our arms.
Back at the office, we spread the goods out on my desk. The aroma of authentic Taiwanese street food is overpowering. We both have pending appointments, so this is destined to be a power tasting. Such is the fast-paced lunch life of a New Yorker. The pork is a deep bronze, and the chicken is crisp and golden. Both sit atop a healthy serving of white rice, drenched with that mysterious pork sauce.
The pork sauce might be habit-forming. We can taste warm, exotic spices – maybe Chinese five spice or star anise? The meat is cooked perfectly, but for some reason, we can’t help ourselves from devouring the rice.
I’ve heard of the legendary tea egg. It’s not quite as pucker-worthy as Zany’s favorite pickled eggs from western Pennsylvania, but certainly worth a try.
The steaming dumplings are tender and bulging with seasoned pork. We pronounce them quite tasty.
The meal is enough for four, but we manage to polish off most of it. Too bad our crony Marie Antoinette is away. I dispose of the debris in the pantry about a quarter-mile from my office so as not to be distracted by the intoxicating aroma for the remainder of the day. We move on to the second half of our day, clearly under the influence of that special sauce.
Halfway through my afternoon meeting, as I struggle to stay awake, my Blackberry starts blinking. It’s a message from Zany.
“The hallway smells like Chinatown,” she writes. “It’s gotta be the pork sauce.”
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