Gongfu Bao street food cart defends title as king of Asian steamed buns

Gongfu Bao street food cart defends title as king of Asian steamed buns

Second annual Ottawa Food Truck Rally on Saturday attracts bumper crowd on more spacious parking lot outside St. Paul’s University

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SEP 29 14 – 12:40 PM — Terek Hassan’s popular Gongfu Bao food cart, specializing in stuffed and steamy Asian buns, successfully defended his championship title against 16 street food truck and cart challengers at Saturday’s second annual Ottawa Food Truck Rally, which attracted an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 ravenous revellers outside St. Paul’s University.

Championship dish awarded by judges created by Gongfu Bao: Barbecue pulled pork, hoisin, crispy shallot, coriander, with Asian slaw

Championship dish awarded by judges created by Gongfu Bao: Barbecue pulled pork, hoisin, crispy shallot, coriander, with Asian slaw on steamed home-made bun

It is the second year Gongfu Bao, usually located at the northwest entrance to Confederation Park (Wednesday to Friday noon to 3 p.m.), took top billing with his street-friendly savoury bites. This year Hassan served barbecue pulled pork with hoison sauce, and crispy shallot with accent of coriander served with Asian slaw. Last year judges (myself among them) awarded Gongfu Bao the title of Best Small Plate at the first annual Ottawa Food Truck Rally, while Angry Dragonz in 2013 claimed Best Large Plate with its grilled chicken, beef and lamb kebabs with Asian slaw.

(Sadly, Angry Dragonz could not join the rally Saturday due to mechanical problems with the truck. This year, judges were asked to decide one Best Overall Plate instead of separate large and small plates, as all operators were asked to keep their prices at or below $4.)

 

2nd_Annual_OFTR__2_Admission was an affordable $10, plus food and drinks on a sunny, warm and picture-postcard late afternoon/early evening.

“I’m extremely happy Gongfu won the title for best food!,” Hassan says.

“First, I have  to thank my crew for working so hard to make this happen. I was genuinely sad that Angry Dragonz couldn’t make it to defend their claim to the trophy — they would’ve been stiff competition and I’m excited to take them on next year.

“All the carts and trucks brought their A-game and there were several with a shot at the title. I’m really glad all our hard work paid off for a second year in a row,” Hassan says.

 

Placing first with Best Truck Design was The Merry Dairy by owner Marlene Haley (title last year went to Urban Cowboy) with her seductive frozen treats and classic, playful vehicle motif. (Judges also gave honourable mention to a colourful, stand-out-from-the-crowd Mr. Churritos cart with its bright undulating banners.)

Photos of all plates appear in this blog post.

Above, The Merry Dairy with Marlene Haley took the judges' fancy with Best Food Truck Design

Above, The Merry Dairy with Marlene Haley took the judges’ fancy with Best Food Truck Design

I should add, very honourable food mentions went to Ad Mare by Barrhaven couple Miriam and Mario Bruce, and chef Pete Webster, for a perfectly executed “fish and chips” meal featuring lightly breaded and fried haddock and home-made crispy chips (an interesting combination of sweet potato, beet, regular potato); also Ottawa Streat Gourmet by chef Ben Baird and partner Elyse Pion for what has to be the most flavourful if not rich poutine I’ve sampled — that’s fresh home-made fries slathered with shredded duck confit, oh-so-rich caramelized onion gravy, and St. Albert cheese curd (of course).

About $20,000 was raised this year to assist culinary training for Ottawa Community Housing tenants at Algonquin College. “This will fund up to three scholarships for the tenants,” says Wendy Mitchell, executive director of the OCH Foundation.

Honourable mention went to Ottawa Street Gourmet by chef Ben Baird for this lip-smacking poutine with fresh-cut fries, duck confit, St. Albert cheese curds and a rich caramelized onion gravy

Honourable mention went to Ottawa Street Gourmet by chef Ben Baird for this lip-smacking poutine with fresh-cut fries, duck confit, St. Albert cheese curds and a rich caramelized onion gravy

“It’s to explore alternative educational opportunities for OCH tenants,” Mitchell says. “Often our tenants have been out of school or the workplace for an extended period, and more academically focused programs may not be of interest to them.

“The culinary arts program combines learning, practical and creative crossover that could really inspire a recipient from OCH to succeed,” Mitchell says.

 


Judging this year were Harley Finkelstein of Shopify and his wife, Lindsay Taub; chef Kyrn Stein of Social; Jim Kyle, dean of the school of hospitality and tourism at Algonquin College; Carley Schelck of the Urban Element, and myself.

Also honourable mention to Ad Mare by Miriam and Mario Burke, chef Pete Webster, with fish and chips featuring lightly batter and fried haddock, home-made potato, beet and sweet potato chips

Also honourable mention to Ad Mare by Miriam and Mario Burke, chef Pete Webster, with fish and chips featuring lightly batted and fried haddock, home-made potato, beet and sweet potato chips

Truck and cart operators say they enjoy the annual street food rally not only because of the enthusiastic crowd it attracts, but because it affords Ottawans a taste of so many culinary cultures. “The gourmet food truck culture is really just beginning in Ottawa,” says Jake Thomas of Dosa Inc., which specializes in a type of filled South Indian crêpes.

“It’s so much fun to be a part of it all.”

Adds Marlene Haley at The Merry Dairy: “It was a lot of fun last year — such a great atmosphere being all together in one place.”

Top, crowds started lining up a good half-hour before gate opened at 4 p.m. Bottom, Ottawa Streat Gourmet chef Ben Baird with partner, Elyse Pion

Top, crowds started lining up a good half-hour before gates opened at 4 p.m. Bottom, Ottawa Streat Gourmet chef Ben Baird with partner, Elyse Pion

Layne Belcher at The Urban Cowboy, well known for his Belcher Burgers named after his late father, Val Belcher (formerly of the Ottawa Rough Riders), expected to serve 1,000 mini corn jalapeño pancakes with cinnamon, braised pulled pork, apple compote and maple bourbon jus.

“To get all these people together and see all these different types of food is amazing,” Belcher says.

“It’s a celebration of food trucks,” he adds. “You’ve got some pretty cool stuff here.”

Clockwise from top left: Sula Wok's Asian Taqco; What the Truck a.k.a. Pizza e Panini's vegetarian pizza; Lunch truck chili cheese dog with chorizo, vegetarian chili; Urban Cowboy cornmeal pancake topped with cinnamon braised pork and apple compote

Clockwise from top left: Sula Wok’s Asian taco; What the Truck a.k.a. Pizza e Panini’s vegetarian pizza; Lunch truck chili cheese dog with chorizo, vegetarian chili; Urban Cowboy cornmeal pancake topped with cinnamon braised pork and apple compote

Clockwise from top left: Original Souvlaki chicken souvlaki; Ozzie's Food beef shawarma; Grilled Cheeserie's Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheddar sandwich; Bonita Cantina's fish taco

Clockwise from top left: Original Souvlaki chicken souvlaki; Ozzie’s Food on Wheels beef shawarma; Grilled Cheeserie’s Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheddar sandwich; Bonita’s Cantina fish taco

Dosa's marsala classic; Canadian Poutinerie's bacon mushroom poutine; Streetside Curry's butter chicken and rice in a naan bowl with yogurt; ROY Street Cart beef empanada with black beans, coriander guacamole, salsa

Clockwise from top left: Dosa’s marsala classic; Canadian Poutinerie’s bacon mushroom poutine; Streetside Curry’s butter chicken and rice in a naan bowl with yogurt; ROYI Street Cart beef empanada with black beans, coriander guacamole, salsa

Oh, how sweet it is! Top, Mr. Churritos fried churro with chocolate and dulce de leche and almonds. Bottom, The Merry Dairy's half-ginger-molasses cookie sandwich with ice cream dipped in Belgian chocolate

Oh, how sweet it is! Top, Mr. Churritos fried churro with chocolate and dulce de leche, almonds. Bottom, The Merry Dairy’s half-ginger-molasses cookie ice cream sandwich dipped in Belgian chocolate

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