The genesis of mobile food in KL
KL’s street food scene is quite literally accelerating. Our city’s latest food frenzy is the new-wave food truck, the modified café model that operates solely from the inside of a truck. Spaghetti, meat chops, tacos – we’re slowly coming around to the fact that KL’s street food is breaking out from pisang goreng stalls and Ramli burger vendors. But while we may not yet be used to digging into pasta by the roadside, we’ve long been eating from mobile operations.
‘The tricycles our grandfathers used to ride were our first-generation food trucks,’ says Cavin Ng, founder of SpagMe, a truck based in Damansara that focuses on fried spaghetti. He recalls a time when vendors would load a container on the back of a tricycle or motorbike to carry fried items, fresh vegetables or tubs of ice cream. The quintessential Malaysian roti man is a fair representation of this. Then came the second wave in the last few decades – the moving truck or SUV selling the likes of cendol, tau fu fah, nasi lemak, Ramli burgers and luk-luk. Soup kitchens often distribute food with the help of wheels as well, as the added mobility ensures that the food gets to where it’s needed most.
But the new wave of food trucks – which experienced a boom this year – takes from the mobility of our forefathers’ methods but adds style, innovation and branding to the mix. New trucks are strikingly labelled and modified to showcase a brand; they often push past the margins of traditional street food techniques, and service is prioritised. As with anything that labels itself ‘artisanal’ these days, food truckers are putting in more care and thought than ever before.