I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I have to be honest; the best food I’ve eaten recently came from a food truck, and a Thai-centric one run by two white dudes at that.
It isn’t that this area lacks for excellent Thai and east Asian cooking from our more formal and common brick-and-mortar establishments, generally run by immigrants. Thai Sawatdee in Winston-Salem and Rearn Thai in Greensboro are my favorites that I’ve tried, and numerous readers in High Point have written in about Thai Herb.
But Matt Pleasants and Steven McPherson really know what they’re doing.
Expats from kitchens at the Honey Pot — the Winston restaurant I miss most — and Mozelle’s respectively, the two are committed to cooking with fresh, local ingredients, and it shows. With flavors as bold and vibrant as the colors of their dishes, their food truck quickly catapulted to the forefront of conversation.
The Bahtmobile — named for the Thai currency and, obviously, Batman — is stunningly good. It makes sense that a former chef from the Honey Pot, which often provided Asian-influenced takes on its menu, would excel making a rotating lineup of east Asian dishes, several of which on the current menu are vegetarian. And food trucks provide a low overhead way for chefs to hang out their own shingle, as incubators of creativity that seem to naturally encourage experimentation and variation rather than staid menus.
I’m mindful of not elevating certain chef’s cooking just because it’s hip. It seems almost cliché to extol the deliciousness of food from well-trained white chefs cooking cuisine they likely didn’t grow up with, especially from a restaurant on four wheels that rotates between breweries, craft beer bars, vineyards and the like. I’m also cautious of not wanting to be perceived as a duped dummy who is falling for clever branding. But despite any reservations, it needs to be said that the food at Bahtmobile is incredibly satisfying.
I ordered the blistered shishito peppers with togarashi mayo, soy glaze and sprinkled with furikake as a sort of appetizer because it came topped with pork candy.
Yeah, you read that right.
I’d only seen pork candy — a sort of fuzzy, cotton-candy-esque topping — on a menu once before, at the revered Xiao Bao Biscuit in Charleston. Of course I ordered it, playing with the fluffy topping and marveling at its texture despite a lack of any strong pork taste. For now it’s a novelty around here, making it worth ordering as an appetizer to share, but even though it tastes good, once more establishments pick up on the trend I expect it will quickly die.
Pleasants said his favorite item currently in rotation is the spicy beef salad with coconut, cucumber and chili that’s nicknamed “the beef waterfall,” but by late in the lunch hour on Tuesday at the Coffee Park Airstream on Reynolda Road, the Bahtmobile had run out. The lemongrass chicken rice bowl is their most popular item, but since it’s a little more straightforward, I opted for the northern Thai red curry dish with roti, shiitake mushroom, cabbage, sweet potato and eggplant.
I almost didn’t order it, honestly, put off by its somewhat culturally insensitive name “jungle curry” on the menu board. But the sesame noodles and chicken wings didn’t sound quite as compelling, and the shrimp toast struck me as more of a gamble taste-wise.
I’m so glad I picked the curry dish, which comes mounted on a piece of roti flatbread. From a distance the entrée might be mistaken for an overflowing taco, with the ingredients piled atop a pliable base that doesn’t sit flat in its container. But it’s thicker and fried, and watching just one instructional video on how to make Thai roti on YouTube is enough to make you want to book a trip to Thailand.
The red curry dripping across the sweet potato and eggplant are really where this dish’s strength emanates from, but the roti is a more satisfying counterpart and vehicle than something like rice.
Based on these two dishes, I’m confident that the other six menu items are also deeply gratifying, especially since one is Pleasants’ favorite and another is the truck’s best-selling option. It helps that I saw a talented local chef walk up to the window with his daughter as I pulled out of the lot, but plenty of other Winston-Salemites can’t shut up about the food truck. And based on the triumphant curry roti dish alone, I’d be ready to vouch for the cooking prowess of the Bahtmobile’s crew.
Good thing you don’t need to throw up the bat signal to find them.
Follow the Bahtmobile (W-S) on Facebook or Instagram to find out where it will be next.