The colorful, slightly off-kilter crew behind the Fojol Bros. rolling caravan of curbside comestibles — hey, just trying to get into the spirit here! — recently launched its third truck. Like the previous two (the original Merlindia, with its Indian dishes, and Benethiopia, with its Ethiopian offerings), the Volathai truck looks across the oceans for culinary inspiration.
Volathai, as you might surmise, features Thai cooking.
The truck started rolling about a week ago, and it’s one of the most impressive vehicles I’ve seen on the road. Co-owner Justin Vitarello has installed two propane-powered woks in the 1950s-era step van, where Vitarello and cook Huda Aziz prepare the dishes to order. The noodles are either fresh (for the drunken noodles) or dried (and soaked for the pad Thai); the curry pastes are commercial but then doctored by Team Fojol before serving.
The first question I asked Vitarello — not because I’m cruel, but because I know many mainstream eaters can’t stand the stuff — is whether he and Aziz cook with fish sauce, the fermented anchovy liquid that’s a staple of Thai cooking. Vitarello said they don’t but they have other secrets to develop flavor without the umami-rich fish sauce.
For the most part, I enjoyed my first bites from Volathai, which sells any of its four menu items as individual servings ($2), in pairs ($8) or as part of the three-dish combo ($11). (The truck’s handle, incidentally, is courtesy of Justin’s mother and Fojol co-owner Virginia Vitarello, who has dreamed up the imaginary places and names for all the trucks.) The tofu pad Thai was too sweet for my tastes, a tamarind sweetness that was only intermittently cut by the chopped peanuts.
The beef drunken noodles, on the other hand, were righteously spicy (read: HOT!) but not at the expense of other, deeper flavors. There was a savory, soylike complexity here that proved satisfying to the last bite. The Green Green Curry was probably the most untraditional dish I tried: a mild, coconut-milk curry dotted with snow peas, corn and these tasty half-moons of charred Brussels sprouts. I would have liked more spice, but I could have popped those grilled sprouts all day, like fiber-oriented M&Ms.
The rice noodles were, by and large, soft and slippery, perhaps a tad mushy in the pad Thai from oversoaking. I also missed the fish sauce. A lot.