It's what we've been missing. Jealous of the great street food trucks, carts and vans in Los Angeles, New York and throughout Europe, Sydney has responded and taken its deep-fryers, grills and steamers to the streets. The City of Sydney recently launched a fleet of specially selected food trucks, which, according to Lord Mayor Clover Moore, will enhance the city's reputation as a global food destination. But who cares about kudos when you're starving hungry at midnight in the middle of town? You only care where your nearest food truck is, and once you've tracked it down (via Twitter and app, see p106), your only concern is whether to have the soft or the crisp taco, the duck or the pork dumpling, the veggie burger or the pork-belly bun - and how long you have to queue. Yes, There Will Be Queuing - and there's nowhere to sit and the eating is by its very nature messy - but it's fast, fresh and fun. So go along for the ride.
1. Sashimi kingfish with crispy tortilla chips from Eat Art Truck
On-road cost: $10.
Queue for: The finely sliced kingfish spiked with chilli and lime and served with crisp, crunchy tortilla. As well, there's a BBQ brisket bun with kimchi slaw, chicken wings with shichimi pepper and hot chocolate cake with dulce de leche and peanuts. It's "progressive street food", with a bit of a Down-South-barbecue-meets-Tokyo-Pop thing going on.
The wheels: The flashy van is covered with canvas, painted by a different artist each month. Inside, former Tetsuya's sous-chef Stuart McGill says he wants to make great food accessible to Sydneysiders at all times of the day and night.
Optional extra: Eat Art picnic rugs, $18.
Facebook: Eat Art Truck
2. Spelt pizza with roast pumpkin from Agapé Organic
On-road cost: $10.
Queue for: The crisply crusted, hand-made pizza of certified organic spelt flour, topped with roasted pumpkin, spinach, feta and caramelised onion. Then queue again for the chocolate spelt brownie with chocolate sauce, topped with vanilla cream, a toffee and nut praline, and a velvety-smooth, dark chocolate sauce. If it were any richer, it would have its own limo, instead of being stuck in a food van. Chef Simon Lawson also recommends his hand-made, soft spelt tacos filled with Berkshire pork, coleslaw and jalapeno, and Gundooee wagyu empanadas with olive, tomato, chilli and chimichurri.
The wheels: A cute, bright, traffic-stopping red mobile home for Botany's Agapé, which champions organic, biodynamic and sustainably farmed ingredients with almost missionary zeal.
Optional extra: Sweet potato chips with aioli.
Facebook: Agape Organic Food Truck
3. Zucchini and chickpea burger from Veggie Patch Van
On-road cost: $10.
Queue for: The non-boring veggie burger, featuring a plump zucchini and chickpea fritter, beetroot relish, dill mayo, caramelised onion, spinach and coriander, all piled into a grain-strewn wholemeal bun ready to pick up with both hands and eat. The all-vegetarian menu includes herbed falafel burgers, raw pumpkin pesto pasta and blackberry, macadamia and chocolate tarts.
The wheels: Aaaw, it's so cute. A collaboration between TMOD Design and Yulli's restaurant in Surry Hills, it's built in the shape of a barn, bringing a little down-home country into the city streets. The truck runs on recycled vegetable oil; the cooking equipment runs on solar power; and all rubbish is turned into compost, so you can stuff yourself with a clear conscience.
Optional extra: Polenta and kale chips.
Facebook: Veggie Patch Van
4. Pork belly steamed buns from Tsuru
On-road cost: $6 each.
Queue for: The generously proportioned, puffy steamed bun filled with slow-braised and roasted pork belly, cucumber and coriander. Ever since New York's David Chang unleashed his Koreanised version of the traditional steamed white bun (mantou) stuffed with pork belly on the world in 2004, the world has responded by going completely gaga for it. Also: roast duck and lychee steamed buns, onigiri (rice balls), crispy chicken wings, lamb satays and pandan pancakes.
The wheels: The black and red-daubed Tsuru food truck is drama-on-wheels, yet inside it's all Asian-street-food-turned-comfort-food by Ellyn Tse of Little Nyonya Catering.
Optional extra: Peach iced tea or coconut water.
Facebook: Tsuru Food Truck
5. Crisp taco with chipotle beef from Cantina Mobil
On-road cost: $5.
Queue for: Slow-roasted and shredded chipotle beef with red cayenne chilli sauce, lime, lettuce, chilli corn, chili con queso (cheese) and tomato salsa stacked inside a crisp taco shell. Choose from a soft- or hard-shell taco, or soft tortilla burrito, then your filling - chipotle beef, achiote chicken or pinto beans. Beware the soft, steamy burrito - it's the size of a forearm.
The wheels: The first of the new Sydney food trucks to hit the road last May, Stephanie Raco and Rode Vella's vehicle plays the part beautifully, with its Vegas-style illuminated arrow, desert-ochre paint job, stylised eagles and short menu of slow-cooked Mexican street food.
Optional extra: help yourself to the hanging rack of chilli salsas.
6. Jean Claude Van Ham jaffle from Jafé Jaffles
On-road cost: $6.
Queue for: A good old-fashioned, surfie-chick Aussie jaffle filled with leg ham, cheese, tomato and "knock-out sauce"; the sort of thing you'd make yourself on a couch-potato night - if you could be bothered. Choose from the David Jafflehoff (spag bol and cheese), the Chilli Todd Carney (mild chilli con carne with sour cream on the side), or the Goldie Corn (creamed corn and cheese).
The wheels: A former RAAF 1967 VW Kombi van put together by two young mates (Luke Bridgford and Marc Tucker) armed with a jaffle-maker, a quirky talent for naming dishes, and not much else; it's the coolest thing on four wheels.
Optional extra: The caramello banana jaffle with hazelnuts and cream.
Facebook: Jafé Jaffles
7. BBQ pork bun from Let's Do Yum Cha
On-road cost: $2.50 each.
Queue for: One of the Cantonese dim sum table's true classics: a nicely fluffy, but not fly-away steamed bun filled with slices of char siu roast pork in a not-too-sweet (and not artificially red) sauce. Yum cha's greatest hits are all here, from vegetable spring rolls and prawn and chive dumplings to mushroom gow gee and roasted duck buns, with self-serve sauces including that all-important black rice vinegar.
The wheels: A mobile trailer ingeniously folds out into a steamy, buzzy dim sum kitchen, piled high with bamboo steamers; the latest venture from Rowan Bates' Let's Do Yum Cha events catering company.
Optional extra: Fresh mango pancake.
Facebook: Let's Do Yum Cha
8. Carne asada taco from Al Carbón
On-road cost: 2 for $12.
Queue for: Prime marinated beef cooked over natural mesquite charcoal, and tucked into house-made soft tortilla. You then help yourself to salsas and salads. There are tostadas and quesadillas as well, filled with a range of meats running from spiced lamb rump with salsa de guajillo to adobo herb-spiced chicken. The idea is brilliant, and the spontaneity of the charcoal-induced flames and smoke is worth the long waits.
The wheels: A trailer that expands into an open grill and pop-up Mexican-style street stall created by former policeman Attila Yilmaz, who was inspired by the flame-grill BBQs of Sonora and Baja.
Optional extra: Raspados (finely shaved fruit ices topped with syrup).alcarbon.com.au
Facebook: Visit Al Carbon
9. Gnocchi with beef ragu from Urban Pasta
On-road cost: $10.
Queue for: Cute little balls of potato gnocchi doused in slow-cooked bolognese-style ragu. You get to choose your pasta, then your sauce. You also get to eat it out of deep, upright take-out food containers like the ones we've always been jealous of in American sitcoms.
The wheels: You can't miss it. Stephane Chevassus a L'Antoine, a self-taught chef who trained for six months at Lanzafame Trattoria in Woolloomooloo, has had it vividly painted with blue-sky scenes.
Optional extra: Home-made macarons.
Facebook: Urban Pasta
10. Ricotta and spinach pastizzi from Bite Size Delights
On-road cost: $3 each.
Queue for: Flaky golden pockets of filo pastry filled with a savoury, squishy mix of ricotta and spinach give a come-again contrast of crisp and crunchy, rich and smooth. The rest of the menu is ... more of these traditional Maltese snacks, baked on site, from salmon and dill to cherry and apple, and even choccy mousse. This truck is pastizzi-on-wheels. Did I mention the menu is all pastizzi?
The wheels: Not yet roadworthy, but owner Peter Saad says it's not far off.
Optional extra: Nope. You need to like pastizzi, or hit the road.
Keep track of Sydney's official fleet of food trucks, with the free Sydney Food Trucks app (iPhone and Android). Otherwise, find details of all the trucks listed here at sydneyfoodtrucks.com.au (except for Jafé Jaffles).
Source: the (sydney) magazine