When you find the Mad Pambazos food truck, either in the courtyard of a brewery in San Pedro or parked along Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, your eyes will inevitably be drawn to a dozen or more rainbow squeeze bottles in front of the truck. This is the collection of hot sauces that chefs Macks Collins and Bryan Kidwell make themselves and proudly display in an ice chest. The lemon habanero is a pale yellow, the jalapeño sauce an electric green and the carrot habanero a deep, burnt orange. Very pretty. And the flavors change based on what Kidwell and Collins find at the markets.
What you'll learn about Kidwell, Collins and partner Joe Drewer pretty quickly is that they're really passionate about their truck, their hot sauces — and the "Mad Max" movies. The "Mad" in the name is a nod to their favorite films, as are the names for the dishes on the truck: Toecutter, Dr. Dealgood and Ton Ton Tattoo, all characters from the movies. You get the idea.
Then again, you'd have to be pretty passionate about something to quit your restaurant jobs in New York City and move to Los Angeles to open a food truck that specializes in a sandwich called the pambazo. It's a salsa-dipped sandwich popular in Mexico City. Collins and Kidwell first tried one when a dishwasher introduced it at a staff meal in New York.
"We were like, 'Wait — what?' " said Collins. "This needs to be exploding."
Considering this country's obsession with hybrid foods, there's no reason the next big food craze shouldn't be the pambazo. It's also more fun to say than sushirrito (no offense to the sushi burrito).
Collins and Kidwell are making different variations, include a pambazo stuffed with shredded braised goat shoulder, covered in Oaxacan cheese, a tart cabbage salad, jalapeños, cotija cheese and crema. It's a symphony of textures, acid and spice called the Toecutter. The bread, a special bun that includes Japanese-style toasted sesame seeds, is dipped in a salsa roja before crisping up on the grill. This creates a crust of slightly dried salsa that surrounds the bread, giving it a distinct red sheen. It is quite the labor-intensive sandwich, requiring hours of prep, as are the other items on the truck, most everything made using the car's oven, grill and two burners.
For the vegetarian People Eater, disks of sweet potato are smoked and then fried, and and then layered with cubes of butternut squash that have been cooked in a Mexican chile sauce, everything topped with Chihuahua cheese, served on a salsa verde-dipped bun.
Then there's the Silvertongues chicken sandwich, made with fresh turmeric and ghee, the contents of half of the chefs' spice cabinet, a yogurt marinade, crispy sweet potatoes, chicken, cashew curry aioli and a tzatziki mint sauce. (And that's not even everything.) This bun is also dipped in tikka masala sauce before hitting the grill.
Because this is a Los Angeles food truck, there's a bulgolgi-marinated brisket taco called the Ton Ton Tattoo. For this one, the chefs are making a Korean-style vinaigrette with gochujang. And as a side dish, the Mad Pambazos' idea of fries includes fried disks of Japanese sweet potato tossed with an Indian curry salt, served with a spiced pink aioli.
And all those sauces in front of the truck? You're encouraged to put them on everything.
If you happen to save room for dessert — this will be difficult considering the size of the pambazos — there are cookies named Immortan Joe (chocolate chip) and Golden Youth (snickerdoodle).
"Being on the road, this is our war rig," said Kidwell. "That apocalyptic, aggressive feel is in line with our food."
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