Why do we love food trucks so much? Perhaps it's their innovation, the accessibility of clever recipes or the joy of eating food curbside. Or perhaps it has something to do with our hunter-gatherer ancestors and some kind of feral satisfaction of tracking down our favorite trucks (albeit via Twitter).

Whatever the reason, Eat St. taps into our collective love of food trucks by assembling 125 recipes from all different trucks. Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt calls it a "revolution"; we call it tonight's dinner.

El Gastrónomo Vagabundo | St. Catharines, Ontario
Smoked Albacore Tuna and Green Papaya Salad

Serves 4

El Gastrónomo Vagabundo is inhabited by Australian chef Adam Hynam-Smith and his Canadian partner, Tamara Jensen.

What a culinary and gastronomic journey! Proof? This salad, a blend of papaya, smoked tuna, and a delicious chili tamarind sauce. I guess that’s the “vagabundo” part.

Tamarind water can be found in many Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find it, soak 3 tbsp (45 mL) tamarind paste in ¾ cup (175 mL) hot water until soft; squeeze pulp with your fingers to dissolve it. Pour through a fine mesh sieve, forcing liquid through with the back of a spoon and scraping pulp from the outside of the sieve.

Smoked Albacore Tuna-A

Chili Tamarind Sauce

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil

  • 4 red shallots, sliced

  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced

  • 1.-inch (4 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 4 long Thai red chilies, coarsely chopped

  • 1 puck palm sugar (60 mL)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) tamarind water

  • 4 cilantro roots

  • Fish sauce

Seasoning Sauce

  • 2 pucks palm sugar (125 mL)

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) water

  • Fish sauce

  • Fried Shallots

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced shallots

Green Papaya Salad

  • 1 green (unripe) papaya, peeled, shredded, and bruised with mortar and pestle

  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh Thai basil leaves, torn

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh cilantro leaves, torn

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh Vietnamese mint leaves, torn

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mint leaves, torn

  • Juice of 2 limes

For serving

  • 1 lb (450 g) applewood cold-smoked albacore tuna, cleaned of sinew and thinly sliced

  • Finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts for garnish

  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, thinly sliced, for garnish

  • 1 lime, quartered, for garnish

For the chili tamarind sauce, in a medium saucepan over high heat, heat oil. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, and chilies; sauté until starting to color. Add palm sugar and tamarind water. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour mixture into blender and add cilantro roots. Blend until smooth.

Pour sauce into a bowl; add fish sauce to taste. Flavor should be a balance of sweet, sour, and salty. Transfer to a squeeze bottle, if desired. Set aside.

For the seasoning sauce, in a small saucepan, combine palm sugar and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Add fish sauce to taste. Flavor should be a balance of sweet and salty. Let cool completely.

For the fried shallots, in a small skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots, stirring frequently and being careful not to burn them, until deep golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. (Shallots will crisp as they cool.)

eatstFor the green papaya salad, in a large bowl, combine papaya, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, Vietnamese mint, and mint; toss gently. Dress with seasoning sauce and lime juice; toss gently to coat.

To serve, arrange tuna slices in middle of 4 plates. Top with green papaya salad, creating a pyramid. Squeeze 3 nickel-size dots of chili tamarind sauce around tuna (or drizzle with a spoon). Garnish with fried shallots, peanuts, lime leaf, and a lime wedge. Serve immediately.

Reprinted from Eat St.: Recipes from the Tastiest, Messiest, and Most Irresistible Food Trucks by James Cunningham. Recipe © Paperny Publishing Inc., 2013. Image © Fastlane Foods (3) Productions Inc. Read our review of this book.

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