Friday, September 23, 2011

Brass Knuckle - Prawns N' Roses

Before there were curry trucks, creme puff trucks, brunch trucks or cupcake trucks, there were taco trucks. Even in this age of gourmet food truck cuisine, almost every kitchen on wheels sells a taco or something resembling one. The reason is pretty simple: tacos are the ideal food on the go. They are small, don't take long to eat, are easy to assemble and can be adapted to hold a wide variety of fillings.

Originating in either San Felipe or Ensenada, Mexico in the late 1950's, fish tacos are a subcategory of taco unto themselves, with fillings that can include any number of fish or shellfish. Brass Knuckle's version of the beach staple is the Prawns N' Roses, featuring a shaggy-haired piece of prawn as the screeching lead singer and a bold yet cool cilantro creme laying down the guitar riffs.

A fish taco must have a taste that is clean and simple. It shouldn't be much more than a battered piece of fish, some shredded cabbage, a little sauce and something spicy. A squeeze of lime on the top, and that's it. Anything too far beyond that basic formula and it becomes more of a train wreck than the production process for Chinese Democracy. Being Brass Knuckle, they can be excused for putting their own slightly wild twist on things, though. Even with the rock and roll treatment, the Prawns N' Roses taco manages to stay true to what a fish taco should be.

The Prawns N' Roses starts with a good-sized prawn battered and rolled in kataifi. Kataifi is a kind of shredded phyllo dough which is usually made into pastry by soaking it in syrup. When wrapped around a prawn and deep fried, however, it resembles crispy vermicelli noodles. Even though the prawn is fried, the airiness of the coating lends a bit of delicacy and keeps it from becoming too heavy or greasy. The crunch of the kataifi is augmented by some shredded cabbage and green onions. There is a little heat from some diced jalapenos, but it pretty much stays in the background like an Izzy Stradlin rhythm guitar.

The role of Slash on the taco is played by a mayonnaise-based cilantro creme that is full of fresh herb flavor but does well to not mask the taste of the shellfish. Rather than mixing it in with the cabbage to create a slaw, the sauce goes underneath the prawn and on the tortilla. The effect is to keep the vegetables dry and crisp so that they and the prawn all have a chance to shine. The one real downside to this is that given the sheer volume taken up by the strings of kataifi, there is no glue to keep the cabbage from spilling out of the taco. You have to eat very quickly, but these tacos can easily be finished in a couple of bites.

The result of all of this is a fish taco that looks like a bit of mayhem but tastes familiar and comforting. There is plenty of crunch, some creaminess, a little spicy kick and strong prawn flavor. I would have appreciated a tad more salt and a wedge of lime, but this is a fun interpretation on the fish taco from Brass Knuckle. They would do well selling it to the surfers coming in from Ocean Beach.

Note: while the photos in this article show two tacos, an order consists of a single taco. We used our illusion.

Rating: 4/5 (ratings guide)

Brass Knuckle (@brassknucklesf) $3.50 for one taco

Brass Knuckle 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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