Saving the city one Asian dish at a time
By: Jennifer Zeleski
When you see a bright yellow vehicle barreling down the highway, it’s normally a school bus. An even weirder place to find one would be parked outside of a local brewery. Luckily, the vibrant yellow truck I was looking for wasn’t a school bus but rather the Bahtmobile, a Southeast Asian-inspired food truck, and it’s as awesome as it sounds.
On Jan. 13, it was parked outside of Foothills Brewing Tasting Room, ready to serve visitors of any age, regardless of if another beer was making their customers’ stomachs growl.
I have had very limited experience with food trucks; aside from accidentally finding myself in the middle of a food truck festival, spinning in circles like a child who lost their mom in an overcrowded mall during the holidays. This was a very different experience, and I was pumped.
To address your potential preconceptions about food trucks and the instilled fear you might have with them, you’re not alone. In the short two decades of my life, I’ve watched food trucks go from terrifying to trustworthy, and with a 4.9-star review on Facebook, I figured this would be a safe spot to test my theory.
Megan and Matt Pleasants newlyweds and co-owners of the Bahtmobile got the idea at the start of 2017.
“Last January, Megan and I were in Thailand, kind of hanging out on a balcony on an island,” Matt said. “And I was like “why am I not cooking Thai food in North Carolina?”
He had cooked for years in what he referred to as “other people’s houses,” and found a cost-effective way to do what he envisioned.
Bahtmobile is hard to miss, with an iconic logo on the side that creates the Batman symbol out of two roosters. The menu board was propped up on a table decorated with two ceramic dishes filled with plastic sporks, a stack of wooden chopsticks and disposable Chinese soup spoons, a bottle of Sriracha and a cat statue that motioned a consistent wave.
I ordered the Khao Soi, a chicken coconut curry dish served with egg noodles, red onions and fried wontons. My boyfriend ordered the Kimchi Fried Rice, which came with a fried egg, fresh cilantro and cotton candy pork.
Starting with the Khao Soi, I relied on my familiarity with curry and figured it would be a good indication of the more traditional dishes Bahtmobile had to offer, which change consistently. “It’s super Thai, and you would find it in the streets in the Northern-most part of Thailand,” Matt said. “It’s the most northern-Thai chicken soup you could find.”
It came in a small bowl packed with egg noodles and shredded chicken, topped with fresh bean sprouts, red onions, crunchy fried wonton strips and swimming in a thin green curry sauce. The sauce itself had the hint of coconut, and once you got a bite of the chicken, you could taste the warmth of the spice. The bean sprouts, cilantro and red onion, created an incredible combination of flavors, without being too overpowering in any regard.
As for the Kimchi Fried Rice, just the look of it before digging in was nothing short of a work of art. The cotton candy pork, made with a dehydrator, had the taste and consistency of its namesake. The fried egg was nestled inside of the mound of rice that included edamame, bean sprouts and green cabbage. The flavor was addicting and almost tropical.
The thought of kimchi can be intimidating as is, but with cotton candy pork included, it could quickly turn someone away from the idea. But since it’s fried rice, something about it felt safe. That’s where the owners believe it’s about finding common ground with the customers.
“With all of our dishes we try to put something out of your comfort zone, but within your comfort zone,” Matt said. “All of the dishes are about balance, there may be something new you’ve tried, but there’s always something that you can relate to with all of them.”
Matt and Megan are looking forward to the future of the business, hoping to power through another summer, celebrate the first anniversary in July and eventually start to look for a permanent location. “We have so many ideas,” Matt said. “Whether we want it to be a noodle shop or a market/deli that has awesome banh mi sandwiches at lunch. We’re always thinking about what the next step is going to be, but we want it to always happen organically.”
They have used inspiration and variety to change their menu often, even offering ramen for a bout of time until they decided they needed a change. “We’re seven months old,” Matt said. “A we’ve offered about 60 to 70 dishes since we’ve started.”
To keep things fresh and enjoy their honeymoon after getting married on Jan. 6, the couple is headed to Thailand once again for a month of relaxation and food investigation. “When you go and see, you kind of have your eyes open,” Matt said, “We have things we want to eat more of this time, and extra things we want to seek out.”
If one thing is for sure, I will be sure to try anything they create from the inspiration they bring home from their trip, even if it’s something I could have never imagined. As for getting out of your comfort zone, “I’ve gotten my 70-year-old mom to try cool things that she would have never tried before,” Matt said. And if you’re still afraid of eating out of the food truck, take it from someone who took years to try guacamole: there really is no more risk than eating at a sit-down restaurant. “Everything’s cooked in a wok, or a pan, or a flat griddle,” Matt said.
Once they return, you can find Bahtmobile’s location by following their updates on social media daily, where Matt and Megan will be “Beatin’ the Street,” once again. Until their honeymoon trip concludes, they’re the food truck Winston-Salem deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
Follow Bahtmobile on Facebook and Instagram @bahtmobile.