Chomping the Chomp Chomp Truck

Chomping the Chomp Chomp Truck
Dave Lieberman

Singaporean food is not exactly commonplace in Orange County; there are exactly zero Singaporean restaurants here, and even Los Angeles is not teeming with stalls dishing up chilli crab, Hainan chicken rice and popiah. So it was exciting to hear of the Chomp Chomp truck, a new, OC-based food truck dedicated to Singaporean food.

Look at this truck. It looks like it should be serving chili five-ways (a sly reference to the Cincinnati Bengals-like truck wrap), not interpretations of Singaporean food. But it is one of the more Tweeted-about trucks in Orange County at the moment.

Chomp Chomp was stopped at the OC Great Park farmers' market recently, and fortuitously, it was lunchtime. The names evoked hawker-stall food, but what came out was a mishmash of proto-Singaporean food and good, old-fashioned, American portable food.

Case in point: The chilli crab slider was not fiery, slick appendages of crustacean, but a normal crab cake slathered with a much-too-sweet chili sauce on an overtoasted bun, then topped with a dry, slightly sour slaw that sapped any remaining fire from the dish. Despite the depredations visited upon it, the crab cake was of high quality, not jammed full of binder, and shone through the sandwich. The "root chips" promised in the description came from a bag; it would have been more interesting had the chips been made in-house. Bagged chips are fine for a truck, but an opportunity was lost here, and the sandwich itself is in need of a serious rehab.

Chomping the Chomp Chomp Truck
Dave Lieberman

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Much better was chicken satay: pieces of dark-meat chicken marinated in a sauce with more than a passing nod to curry paste, threaded on skewers, and grilled until that magical moment when the meat is both slightly charred and juicy. It came with a large puddle of slightly gelatinous peanut sauce (reminiscent of Lee Kum Kee bottles) and a sturdy pile of rice cubes, a take on lontong, the pressed rice of Singapore and Malaysia. The rice was coconut-flavored, and the taste complemented the peanut sauce so well that a side order of the rice should have been in order.

Kaya French toast was a takeoff on the Singaporean sweet treat of plain toast with kaya (a concoction of coconut, eggs, pandan leaf and sugar that's like a very thick custard), with the kaya stuffed into French toast. This was actually an improvement on the original; the kaya was a great choice for stuffing inside normal French toast.

Prices are reasonable, and portions are very large. The food came out within a reasonable period after ordering, but on both visits, there was hardly anyone at the truck; it's easy to imagine them getting in the weeds at a festival like OC Foodie Fest. More important would be to have all parts of a normal-sized order come up at the same time.

The truck is worth a stop if convenient, but to call it "street hawker food" is disingenuous, even with the trailing description "with American twist." The disappointment stems mostly from the letdown after the promise of the only Singaporean food in the county; sadly, the search for true Singaporean food must needs continue and may never be realized without a trip to the steaming-hot island itself.

Follow the Chomp Chomp Truck on Twitter at @ChompChompTruck or on its Facebook page; it does not have a website.

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