Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hapa SF - Beelor Ranch Sisig Rice Plate

When it comes to Asian cuisine, food trucks have a tendency to lean in the direction of fusion. Maybe the influence of gourmet Korean tacos caused scores of trucks to follow the trend, but sometimes it seems like you can't get your Asian food truck fix without a tortilla. So when I got in line at Hapa SF and wanted Filipino food without the Mexican twist, I skipped the Sisig Tacos and opted for the Beelor Ranch Sisig Rice Plate.

Hapa SF takes classic Filipino comfort food and puts a modern California spin to it, using organic ingredients and fresh local vegetables from Dirty Girl Produce. While the menu does have the obligatory fusion in the form of Chicken Adobo Banh Mi and Sisig Tacos, they also offer more traditional Filipino dishes like Lumpia "Shanghai," Vegetarian Pancit and rice plate versions of the chicken adobo and sisig.

For the Beelor Ranch Sisig, Chef William Pilz uses pork shoulder and jowl, which is more American-friendly than the standard head meat in traditional sisig. This is a modern take on the classic dish, and I'd have to say that the compostable paper container it is served in doesn't do it justice. The china used in the vanity shot on the Hapa SF website is more like it, though I wish I'd gotten it with the egg in the picture for a silog! It was still good without the egg, though.

The two different cuts of pork are prepared in different ways. While the pork shoulder marinates in soy sauce, garlic, jalapenos and lime juice, the pork jowls fry up separately as a kind of jowl bacon. In the finished dish they stay crispy on the outside with a nice tender center. The little salty cubes are reminiscent of guanciale, and along with the more delicate pork shoulder the mix of textures provides a wonderful range of sensations in the mouth. Crispy, crunchy, tender, chewy with a little bit of heat and zing—all present and accounted for.

There was just enough citrus flavor from the limes to make it pleasant, never straying into overly sour. The taste of the jalapenos certainly announced the presence of the peppers, but they thankfully didn't dominate the dish. There was a bit of sweetness, too, that balanced out the salty, sour and spicy, forming a very well-rounded concert of flavors. Nothing stole the show from anything else. While some would consider it a negative that none of the flavors had a big punch to them, I consider it a plus.

The sisig is served over jasmine rice, but I found that my dish could have used a slightly larger portion of it. My mouth didn't have the chance to take a break with a neutral flavor, and thinking back to the picture of the dish on the Hapa SF website maybe an egg would have been a good idea.

Overall, though, the dish was homey and comforting, with textures that popped and flavors that married beautifully. Did I wish I had a tortilla to go along with it? Not a chance.

Rating: 3.5/5 (ratings guide)

Hapa SF (@hapasf) $8 per order

Hapa SF (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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