It’s not exactly clear where street food originated, but we do know that it's prevalent on every continent. Thus, Africa is no exception. In fact, two of my favorite trailer food stories in Austin come from African vendors The Flying Carpet and Cazamance.
Why are they some of my favorites? Not only do they serve incredible food, but their hearts are as big as anyone I’ve ever met, and it shines through in the cuisine. Each of the owners have had me over to cook and teach me their recipes first hand. Their concern over your food-joy is a critical part of the overall experience, and they will both make sure you leave happy.
Hailing from the ghetto of Morocco, Abderrahim Souktouri won a citizenship lottery to live in the United States several years ago. He and his wife, Maria, have been making intensely flavorful Moroccan food that sometimes hints to her Mexican heritage, as well. Far from a fusion trailer, they offer classical dishes from the North shores of Africa.
Fittingly, “The Moroccan” is their best-seller and certainly an item not to be missed. However, my personal favorite is something they taught me how to make in their home: Moroccan Lemon and Butter Chicken with Olives. It’s not on their regular menu, but you can find it in the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook (coming to stores this October).
“The Flying Carpet’s motto is 'food translates,' because we believe that sitting down to a meal with friends and family is one of the most important things we do in life," Abderrahim says. "Food is a language we all speak. We are neither chefs nor restaurateurs, we are just people who live to serve, eat and make food for the ones we love.”
In the same vein, Chef Iba Thiam has never met an enemy. You might consider playing six-degrees-of-Iba next time you’re in his neighborhood to determine how you, too, may know him. Much like the Flying Carpet, Iba at Cazamance uses only fine, healthy ingredients with as much focus on local and seasonal as possible. “The eyes eat first,” he says, so everything he prepares appeals to all senses.
Growing up in Senegal on the West African coast, Iba brings unique flavors, stories and a genuine heart for community to the trailer food scene. For example, Bunny Chow is a classic African dish—and one of the most popular plates ordered from his trailer. He says that Bunny Chow originated during Apartheid times; in essence, an African who was hired to cook in a kitchen might hide savory meats and herbs inside a loaf of bread to deliver some nourishment to his or her family. The dish now finds itself on modern day menus, and the lamb sausage is one of Iba’s best Bunny Chow sellers.
Whether you’re interested in international fare, the trailer food scene or just really wonderful people, these are two trailers you’ll want to put on your to-do list next time you’re heading out to eat. For more information, you're invited to follow my blog at www.trailerfooddiaries.com.
The Flying Carpet is open Thursday-Friday 7p-9:30p, Saturday 12:30p-3:30p and 7p-1p, and Sunday from 12p-6p. You can find them in the green trailer on Gibson and South Congress (78704).
Cazamance's first trailer is still located at 96 Rainey Street, just across from Clive Bar in the Rainey District. This trailer is closed Tuesdays, but you can catch him Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for lunch from 11a-3p, and dinner from 6p-11p. Friday he is open from 11a-3p and 6p-midnight, Saturday 6p-midnight, and Sunday 6p-11p. Iba has recently opened a second location at 1102 E Cesar Chavez. At this location he is open daily from 10a-5p.