For this month’s installment of Eating at the Market, I made the trek to Eilan’s Ripe. Curated by chef Stephan Pyles, the weekly Sunday market is in its third month of existence, so I was a bit surprised by the number of present vendors, which seemed to have decreased.
But the journey via I-10 wasn’t a total wash: I may not have found my favorite crepe stand that day, but I did find a suitable, if not equally satisfying, replacement in Singh’s Vietnamese food trailer.
I’d been meaning to try Singh’s for some time now since witnessing an outrageous line of excited eaters outside the demurely decorated trailer during Culinaria’s food truck event in May. Already several trucks in at the time, I decided to pass on the 35-minute-long line.
Owned by business partners Louis Singh and Eric Treviño (who also own Dishalicious, a food delivery service in Austin), Singh’s usual spot is next to Hills and Dales off 1604 where they dish up Southeast Asian favorites with a twist. Menu items (most are priced at $8 or under) include izakaya or bar fare such as Saigon eggrolls, Singhs wings, crispy oysters on goi (usually a chicken and cabbage salad), grilled pork or chicken skewers, 10-hour brisket and vermicelli bowls. The recipes all hail from Mama Singh, Louis’ mother, who had to take up cooking at a young age to help feed her brothers and sisters.
“She’s very much a part of the truck–she preps, oversees everything we do. Getting some of these recipes took a lot of convincing,” Singh said.
But the recipe in question during my market visit was his. Singh combined a soft bolillo roll (try finding authentic rice flour demi-baguettes in San Antonio, I dare you) with fresh cilantro and julienned carrots along with crispy strips of bacon, a runny fried egg and lightly fried avocado. What could have come off as overly stimulating and heavy sandwich was instead a colorful rendition of Vietnamese street food meets American brunch. Was it messy? Of course, but it was also oh-so-worth it.
The banh mi was paired with a sinus-opening, richly colored hot sauce made with a mix of Asian dried chilies and dried Mexican chile de arbol, which Singh says is descriptive of his upbringing. The youngest of four siblings, Singh is part Vietnamese, part Indian and part Texan, and he strives to include all combinations of his upbringing within the truck … just don’t expect to find biryani any time soon.
“Most people think of pho when they think of Vietnamese, but there’s an enormous repertoire (of food),” he said, “my goal is to open up people to the foods and soups I grew up with, more humble, more peasant-style dishes.”