Classic Yum

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https://www.facebook.com/classicyum
https://twitter.com/ClassicYum
Main Location: Minneapolis, St Paul, Etc

The second truck on my State Capital lunch visit in May of 2015, Classic Yum Food Truck, mostly appeared on the scene in the same year. I had actually planned to hit them earlier during Harriet Brewery’s Spring Truck Rally, but of course I get the call from work RIGHT as I’m leaving. Grrrrr… damn you daily life, ruining my mobile adventures!

Oh well, at least I could get back to visit this big yellow behemoth (and now I’m thinking about the Magic Schoolbus)! The focus of which seems to be the use of Chinese and Southern Asian flavors and cooking techniques into basic truck food. Specific menu items themselves tend to change and switch around rather often; in fact, every time they park at a brewery they focus almost purely on selling simple snack-based, easy eating pub-style offerings (I sadly don’t know what kind specifically, but you can get an idea based on style they serve).

Items themselves can range from a highly classic and simple Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, over rice and such, to a ‘Chinese’ Pulled Pork Sandwich (I assume the moniker is due to flavors cooked WITH the pork, and not just because it’s served with an ‘Asian Slaw,’ though who knows). Some rather consistent options include Turkey Eggrolls (which I so wanna get), ‘Dragon Fries’ (will explain later), Thai Red Curry Chicken Wrap, and a Vietnamese Fried Fish Sandwich. Many of which come with a bag of chips (Lays, which my boss was happy with. Don’t look at me like that, I had enough food in me that day, I did NOT need those empty calories, no matter how crispy they are).

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Food: 7

                That Fish Sandwich was calling out to me, and was singularly unique compared to most menus I’ve seen, so I just had to feature it. The basic composition was, of course, a white fish filet, given a light batter and fried. This placed between a buttered, toasted bun (nicely toasted bun, yum) with a spread of ‘Shrimp Pate,’ cooked shrimp turned into a paste which offered a refreshingly cool sweet seafood flavor in contrast to the warmth and flaky light richness of the fish. That is then topped with pickled red onions, FRIED onions, and an ‘Asian tartar sauce,’ which all in all come together like a classic fried walleye sandwich with a twist of South-Eastern Asian freshness. The particularly tart pickled onions and flavored sauce stand out nicely with the fish, which isn’t at that perfectly thick and crunchy fried batter that one can expect from, say, a proper fish and chips, but it stood up with everything else just fine, helped out in flavor and texture from the fried onions. That said, I think they had way too many pickled onions on top; I had like half of mine fall out, and it still felt on the edge of just shoving their presence in your face, and I LIKE pickled onions (they’re good too). Just, pull back on them a bit will ya?

The fried Shrimp, on the other hand, didn’t quite thrill me that much. An order of Dragon Fries gets you a basket of shoestring French fries accompanied by 2-3 (okay it’s been a week since I’ve had this, and my picture’s not so clear, so I forgot) shrimp, sliced in half and fried in batter. Fries are typical, nothing exciting or particularly craveable, and though the shrimp has the nice flavor you expect, it was also a touch greasy in flavor, and the batter came out rather thick and soft in spots, almost moist. Basically they’re fried in a typical ‘sweet and sour’ style, flavor being better than the generic restaurants but texture about the same.

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Being of that style, though, it did come with a thing of Homemade Sweet-Sour Sauce, which… was definitely better than the stuff from the packet. Similar flavor points, but smoothed out, not thick, and mellow, a very happy dipper for both my shrimp and the potato strips they came with. I should finish by saying that I overall don’t have any issue with the dish idea, fried shrimp on fried potatoes seems lazy but I can understand its place, but there are some execution points and choices that I wish were improved.

Holdability: 8.5

                 Dragon Fries are like eating a… well, a basket of fries, we can imagine how easy that is, only need to consider dipping. The Fish sandwich fillings did have a habit of sliding around (as I mentioned earlier, quite a bit of the onions fell out), but to be fair I think much of that mess was my own fault for not taking full advantage of that foil wrapping around it. If I actually used that instead of trying to go full-hand, it probably would have kept in tight and clean like wrapped sandwiches do and not been so much tartar and pickle stuff on my fingers. And I expect the other sandwiches and wraps to be as clean, the teriyaki coming with a fork, and everything being able to consume without much extra attention while roaming. Just two hands required.
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Price: 7.5

                  Main sandwiches come out at $10, the Wrap being a buck less, Teriyaki bowl one further at $8. The Dragon Fries settles down to $6, which feels fair and about right for a mound of fries with shrimp, which usually comes in pricier even for just a few, though I do wish the quality was further up to match it. Still very sad to say I didn’t try the egg rolls, so not sure how well they fit their $5 moniker, but if they’re anything like Vellee’s in quality (being turkey based they certainly sound unique enough) and of a decent size or quantity, I’d say it’s a safe bet. As for sandwiches, I agree with price for the Fish (even as-is), but the pulled pork and wrap need to be a bit fantastic to garner that, cuz I don’t think a bag of chips is enough of a side to qualify the extra dollar or two I’m unwittingly paying vs having the truck food on its own. Would rather get those fries or something else (preferably something else).

Speed: 7.5

Took about five minutes, average wait for three things that need frying (shrimp, potatoes, and fish) plus assembly.

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The TOE: 8

                  There’s something about the food and menu that doesn’t quite excite me as the personality of the truck’s name and design does when hearing and seeking it out on social media, or seeing from a distance. I think part of it has to do with the actual sorta tacky food pictures in the window along with the whiteboard menu, which is an annoying juxtaposition as (as a customer/reviewer) I do appreciate being able to see what to expect for each item ahead of time. There’s a feel to it when visiting that reminds me of some typical/generic newer Chinese/Pan-Asian food court or cart (like that Golden Tummy that was hanging around Minneapolis a couple years back), which is unfair to them because I can tell they’re offering some interesting and more unique options and packaging of their food, what with getting turkey in the eggrolls, (hopefully) flavoring a pulled pork sandwich with Chinese spices, and other things I’m sure they’ll come up with. Definitely giving them a few extra points for changing the menu to fit their locations, like when they offer more pub-style/snack-ish foods at breweries. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe a result of the food’s impression on me afterward. Hopefully I can change my mind at a future visit.

Tally: 38.5/50

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Final Thoughts

Classic Yum seeks to fill the need for Chinese and Southern Asian flavors presented in a not-so-typical way, and for the most part they have had a strong start towards success in this, needing only some tweaking and further twisting from a few too simplistic dishes (I’m looking at you Teriyaki and Dragon Fries) to fully achieve something amazing. For now they are definitely the spot to go when seeking Asian flavors packed between two buns, or wrapped in a tortilla. They also offer a decent possibility in the quick-snack option during Truck touring/meals or when visiting a brewery, mainly in the form of Turkey Eggrolls and other changing/seasonal items I have yet to experience.

From what I’ve witnessed in their regular on-the-street lineup, I think the most exciting option for the hungry traveler would be the Red Curry Chicken Wrap, from its high portability to tasty flavors (plenty of places now have proven curried stuff crammed into a burrito is delicious), and at a buck less than the other sandwiches, even more of a deal. That said the Fish Sandwich is quite the experience, especially from trucks; with a lineup that mostly looks to burgers, pulled pork (and other bbq), bacon, fried chicken, grilled/fried shrimp, tofu stuff, and other things meat or vegetarian related, it’s not often you get to actually get to try anything fish related. And they did do it well, I simply suggest taking off half of the pickled onions before digging in. Then you’ll be happy.

A Journey in Dim Sum

(Spurred on by a morning “brunch” at Pagoda, I couldn’t help but want to write about a certain subject today. Sadly though I forgot to take multiple pictures of the food to better pair along with it, so I had to settle for simple, general shots of carts and things I found online)

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                The practice of Dim Sum, the almost buffet-style service of small Chinese plates from pushed carts (regular and steamed, though apparently there are some places that eschew the carts to ordering from a “menu” of sorts) and offered to patrons at different costs per item, owes its origins not to restaurants or Chinese family tradition, but to Tea; or, to be more specific, Tea Houses which took up residence along the Silk Road (Ancient trans-Asian trading route). Travelers, weary from the long treks and business, and Rural Farmers alike would use the houses as a place of rest. Just rest, and warm rehydration for the longest time, as tea and food were not consumed together (a belief of 1+1=really fat) until it was “discovered” that tea aided in digestion. Though there’s also theories it started due to a recent ban on Opium Dens; the only sense of which I could make out of being that they themselves (somehow) entertained a rich tea-drinking tradition… along with certain other indulgences.

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                With freedom to eat, owners of the small, limited houses started offering Small Snacks and dishes to consume and restore the patrons along with the tea. It might have lightly started with only a couple of “options,” or just one set dish made from whichever cooking tools they used. In particular, simple dishes like traditional Porridge (made with Rice in the South and Wheat in the North, also marking the regional focus on dumpling wrapper base ingredients), flavored with local aromatics and whichever proteins and vegetables one could get their hands on, were employed in much the same fashion as the Soups of the French Restaurers (said to be the first true “restaurants,” and where we get the term, and coming into existence a few hundred years after the tea house development). They “restored” a person’s energy, along with their Chi, their Soul.

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                This was “Eating to Live,” one of the various Chinese concepts and theories about the connection between food and person. Basically describing the consumption of grains, cereals, and similar energy and nutrition-focused items, it stands in stark contrast to “Eating for Pleasure,” the cooking of Meats and Vegetables designed, at that time (and still true today in many a sense), purely for the enjoyment of flavor, an extravagance used mainly when one can afford it, for special occasions, or the rich.

                Growing to consist of a variety of now-familiar items such as various dumplings (bun and noodle based), sticky rice wraps, porridge, and fried noodle rolls/balls, ALL offered as-is or filled with any form of protein desired, one could thus conclude these Tea Houses (and/or some of the bigger “cafes” grown from the concept in a later century) to be one of the first Chinese establishments to properly combine and display both of these long-held ideals. A place one could go to experience pleasure, while eating that needed to live, either separately or together.

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                Its origins have been said to stem from the South, which makes a bit of sense considering the cuisine of the Canton region boasts the most diverse and varied offerings in China. Perhaps this may have been one of the original factors which lead to the smorgasbord of different offerings we have today (not to mention the many Steamed Dishes, the vaporized cooking method being a particularly important and traditional method in the region). Nonetheless where it began, this popular trend spread from the southern trading paths of Guangzou to nearby Hong Kong, soon becoming an inlaid practice for the sustenance of cities (not just roads) throughout the Country. Not to mention providing even further variety in main ingredients, cooking styles, and preparation techniques for the many different food options to choose from today (thank you North for the extra dumplings!).

                Of the many new demographics over the coming decades of growth for this tradition, one of the most important (both in volume and impact), oddly enough, came in the form of their elderly. As morning exercises were an important cultural part to their day, the consumption of tea and (as follows) dim sum right afterwards to replenish energy and partake in group social traditions soon followed into a cultural habit. With this, the benefiting cafes and tea houses ended up “opening” the establishments as early as 5am as part of their culture (or that could just be certain ones nowadays, unclear), and traditionally halting dim sum around mid-afternoon. Which answered my personal wonderment as to why so many dim sum times happen during “brunch.”

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                With social convention woven in over the years, dim sum slowly turned from quiet moments of rest and contemplation to loud, joyful dining experiences. By this point its transition into “restaurant” use was more complete, and with various technological, geographical, emigrational and social changes has evolved to that point where it is today, both in China and worldwide.

                And as many of these cultural culinary focuses sink into the present, the actions of interests, cravings and trends do what they are wont to do. For both the good and the bad, they find ways to take this tradition and apply it to ever changing demographics, ever needy audiences who shape delivery along with industry itself. From serving “dim sum” from carts and booths on the streets of today (some in skewers), to selling it as “take out,” and to who knows whatever interesting and weird ways of presenting it; and yes, even Food Trucks.

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                But one can’t deny the soul that this tradition has grown, starting its course from the routes of travel and moving to the table, yet still finding its way back. Even in this mishmashed, modern culture we live in today, dim sum is able to express itself and delight us in the same way as when it began, and in the way it truly is: as Street Food. Maybe not in the mobile sense, though some carts ARE sliding those dumplings on skewers, but in what street food WAS, and how it started. As those little booths, and stands, and shacks, run by family and serving simple, heart-warming food meant not just for the body but for the spirit.

                This is the food that was tied to people, who they are and how they lived. It’s for this reason that it is still engrained into the cuisines and restaurants today, and it’s for this reason we still celebrate and look forward to it, not just because it’s fun and delicious but because of what it ties into, what those who make it try to share with us. Street food is more than just something one can hold in their hand, it’s something that can transport our spirit, and Dim Sum does that.

                So, with all that said, why don’t we have a Dim Sum Food Truck here yet!!? Come oooonnnn, please?? I swear it’d be popular, truly (the Dim Sum restaurants do seem to be quite successful here, or at least growing)! It might not be the PERFECT street food, but it’s close, it even has the whole nostalgic and historic traditional thing going for it! I’ve already said they have carts skewering things, so why can’t we put the rest in a big truck as well? They already perform well in rolling mini carts, this way we just have people come to the food instead of the other way around (though I guess the truck would still be coming to “your area,” so kinda the same?).

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                Just think about it. Heading up to a very simple truck or large cart with large glass windows showing the various options just waiting for you underneath steamers or light warming areas (like Potter’s little pasty pile). You grab yourself a long skewer of 4 sauce laden pork/shrimp dumplings, large fluffy Char Siu (bbq pork) Bun, the thick and chewy deep-fried rice “dumpling” of Haam Sei Gauu (look it up, seriously, so good) in a paper wrapping, or maybe even a Coconut/Red Bean Custard Bun if you’re in the mood for dessert. Or maybe it’s a cold day, you’re tired from work/exercise or for whatever reason under the wheather, and you grab a nice, warm bowl of aromatic herb Rice Porridge filled with seafood or other meat to rejuvenate yourself for the rest of the day. Not to mention all the other almost-limitless possibilities.

               Doesn’t that sound good? Doesn’t that sound AMAZING to find on the street, especially on some of the colder spring/autumn days? Of course it does. But it’s not going to be a reality until someone makes a decision to start, so let’s do all we can to find a way and make this happen! If you’re thinking about starting a truck and have some skill in Chinese Cuisine, consider this idea before stir-fry; if you know someone who makes awesome Dumplings and/or Cantonese food, push them to open a cart (don’t be subtle about it, I want these guys on the street NOW, haha), if you see a Kickstarter campaign… find a way to dupe someone with money to help fund it (don’t look at me, I’m practically still a college student with my budget atm)!

                But above all, just keep supporting the various (quality) Trucks which come out, as well as the various means they use to survive, to help encourage other culinary entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and ideas. For in this ever expanding world of cuisine, Ever-changing Modern and Long-standing Tradition both hang at the forefront of importance; two very hot, burning pyres which need be ever stoked and kept alive, keeping the warmth of our lives ongoing and filled with flickering excitement. For this way we can spread the warmth, the traditions, the history of all these great and amazing cuisines, to show those we love and care about something new and fun, for which they can do the same for others. In that sense we shall truly expand and celebrate that warmth that is our soul with others, and connect with others as people have for centuries. That is what food does for us, and what it continues to do as we implement both new and old traditions of spreading its joy.

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                Maybe that’s why I decided to start writing about Dim Sum today, because it’s one of the World Foods which evoke this idea and feeling so well, and so easily on the initial thoughts and emotions whence consuming; after all, it does translate to “Touch the Heart.”

                I rambled much from my initial dialogue and history lesson, much as I usually do in my various posts on this site, but I hope that in THIS sense/situation my readers are able to better understand why it is I do this now. And from here, hopefully my thoughts and feelings can better go out and encourage others to let themselves go in thought and conversation, and travel on their own fun, exciting, and emotional tangents in the middle of some journey that has nothing to do with it ever more often.

                Though whether you enjoyed my travel in thoughts of this afternoon or simply see these paragraphs as the typings of an unorderly, random weirdo on a soapbox (which is about to collapse on itself I assure you), I dearly wish you Good Luck in whatever culinary travels you are to partake in, either soon coming or down the line, and Good Eating experiences to all.

                Now go put a dumpling in your mouth.