Have you been to the PGH Taco Truck yet? Maybe more accurately, has the PGH Taco Truck been to YOU? That's the beauty of a free-range, free-roaming, cage-free food truck - it isn't tethered to one solitary spot. All the goodness of whatever specialty food is on-board travels the area if not directly TO you, at least NEAR you.
The outskirts of Pittsburgh (occasionally within the city limits, but that's another story...sigh) are blessed with a herd of these behemoth trucks representing all variety of foods. In the mood for sushi? The Fukuda Truck. Burgers? Ah, you have a selection here with BRGR or Steer & Wheel. Cupcakes? Hot dogs? Grilled cheese? Respectively, Dozen Dessert Truck, Franktuary Truck and Oh My Grill. Even Pittsburgh's Polish favorite pierogies are represented with the PGHPierogie Truck! Essentially, if you have a craving itch, there's a food truck to scratch it.
Lately, Mark and I have often been scratching the itch for tacos at the PGH Taco Truck. The bright red truck hangs out regularly at the Coffee Budhha on Perry Highway (Rte. 19) in the North Hills. James, the talent behind the tacos, cooks up some out-of-this-world and out-of-the-ordinary tacos to please the waiting crowds wherever he goes. Not only do we buy tacos for ourselves, they make wonderful take-along treats when visiting friends!
So far Mark and I have tried the SeaBak (named for Rick Sebak, Pittsburgh's WQED documentary treasure) consisting of scallops (Sea), bacon (bak), cheddar and guacamole - I LOVE this one! (the sea part changes with the tide - shrimp or lobster or any combination thereof may show up on the menu at James' whim); spicy jerk chicken and avocado cream - fantastic!, Mark's favorite - juicy pork with sweet Thai chili slaw, a more traditional taco of Angus ground beef with cheddar and fresh salsa - another Mark fave and organic curried potato with sriracha-lime cream just to name a few. The curried potato one? I tried to duplicate it - you know me...gotta try it at home!
I'd been craving the curried potato taco for a while. One of the things I've missed since being gluten-free is the savory Indian treat known as a samosa. Back in our Maryland days, samosas at the Columbia Fair were an item I never missed...okay, and fried dough too. I imagined a curried potato taco would taste very much the same as my long lost Indian pastry. Did it? Well, almost.
The tender potato filling was delicious and I will most DEFINITELY be ordering it again! But it wasn't quite the samosa flavor I craved. Could I capture the flavors of both the PGH Taco Truck version and a samosa? I did! The best of both samosa AND taco all rolled into one suddenly became our new favorite vegetarian entree.
My version? Instead of ghee I toasted whole coriander seed in butter (for a vegan version try using coconut oil instead), diced cooked potatoes, onion, garam masala and at the very end added the traditional peas for a textural "pop" and sweetness against the potato and spices. Then I made a smoked corn, smoked jalapeno & poblano salsa with lime and cumin to add a little brightness and even more texture to my tacos. Even meat-loving Mark is a fan!
One more BIG plus in my book for the PGH Taco Truck. They use corn tortillas exclusively and EVERYTHING is coincidentally and naturally gluten-free. Even the soy sauce is GF. THANK YOU, James! Check Facebook and Twitter to find out where the truck is on any given day - James usually posts or tweets his schedule at the beginning of each week and updates throughout the week. Who knows? We may just see each other in line in front of the big red truck some evening soon!
Samosa Potato Tacos
with Smoked Corn, Jalapeno & Poblano Salsa
- 2 tablespoons butter, or coconut oil to make this vegan
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, very small dice
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1 pound potatoes, cooked in their skins till just tender, cooled, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (see recipe for homemade below)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
- 6 corn tortillas, warmed
Melt the butter (or coconut oil) in a large skillet. Add coriander seeds and toast - don't let them burn. Then add diced onions and cook gently until translucent.
Add the potatoes, garam masala and cayenne. Stir gently so the potatoes are thoroughly coated with the butter and spices - try not to let them break up too much. Remove from heat.
Add the frozen peas (the hot mixture will thaw the peas, but still let them retain the "pop" for a contrast in texture. Sprinkle with lemon juice and combine well. Keep hot.
Assemble tacos: Lay out a warmed corn tortilla and spoon some of the potato mixture down the center. Next spoon some corn salsa down the center, too. Fold over and eat with a squeeze of fresh lime.
Homemade garam masala:
- 1 t. cumin
- 1 1/2 t. ground coriander
- 1 1/2 t. ground cardamom
- 1 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. ground cloves
- 1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg.
Combine all the spices well. You will only use 1 teaspoon of this mixture for the potatoes so be sure to store what's left in a small bag or extra spice bottle. Be sure to mark it so you know what it is when you dig it out of the bag of the spice cabinet the next time!
Smoked corn salsa: Cut smoked corn or roasted corn from the cobs into a large bowl. Use about 2 cups. Set aside. While you're smoking or roasting the corn, put on 1 jalapeno and 1 poblano and cook until soft. Remove the peppers to a plastic container and cover with a lid tightly. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. When the peppers are cool, remove the skins, stems and seeds. Finely dice the peppers and add to the corn.
In a molcajete or mortar and pestle, mash 1 small garlic clove, a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, 1 finely miniced, seeded jalapeno pepper with about a teaspoon of Kosher salt. When the mixture is pulverized, add it all into the corn and peppers. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over all with a pinch or two of cumin and mix well. The salsa is ready to top the tacos. Use any leftover salsa with chips or to top hot dogs or nachos.