by Ethan Gresko
Few things are certain at Culture Shock. The weather can be hit or miss, the performers may or may not live up to expectations, and the rides, well, will you survive riding them? But the food at Culture Shock — the greasy, expensive variety that almost takes up half of the attractions — is one thing you can be sure to look forward to each year.
With a small tent propped up in front of their window, the Hapa food truck powered through a rainy Friday, keeping a growing line of customers dry. Rain shouldn’t have stopped Culture Shock-goers from going anyway; if you don’t have a car or a way to get to Stamford (where the truck is usually located), this one day in April was your chance to experience the cuisine, and to experience the tacos.
Hapa offers a fusion of American street food and Asian Pacific cuisine. Fusion food trucks are growing throughout the country, especially in Los Angeles; forming a menu around a combination of cuisines is a great way to stand out and widen the range of options. Their Hapa burger, for example, is served on a brioche bun made with ube, a purple yam traditionally used in Filipino deserts. Don’t worry about the purple color it gives the bread, though— the slightly sweet flavor the ube has compliments the savory aspect of the rest of the burger.
But the tacos are where it’s at. Hapa joins the trendy taco scene, offering options of Korean brisket, crispy cauliflower (vegan), chicken adobo and a fish of the day (it was salmon for Culture Shock). The crispy cauliflower taco is what you want to be eating on a hot day, or when you need a break from the heavier options around. The cauliflower, matched with a light slaw, pico, and topped with vegan poppy seed dressing, is refreshing and bright. The Korean brisket taco is made up of tender, braised brisket, a sesame slaw, and topped with a house aioli made with gochujang, a fermented red chili paste. Eat this one before the crispy cauliflower if you have trouble with spicy food like me, so that poppy dressing can cool down your mouth.
Three Little Pigs BBQ parked next to Hapa with a much larger menu. If I’m going up to a food truck, I want a shorter menu like Hapa; I don’t want to scan through all of my choices as if I were at a restaurant. Food trucks should be on the go, and that’s where Hapa was favorable. Three Little Pigs delivered most with their sides, particularly the mac & cheese. The creamy, velvety cheese sauce covering the go-to elbow noodles wasn’t overly rich, and was a good portion for just four dollars. I even put a little bit of their Texas sauce on the side— not a bad decision at all. Their pulled pork sandwich didn’t live up to expectation; I’m a lover of pulled pork and most things barbecue, and their pork could have had more flavor (solution: better dry rub) and bark (those irresistible charred pieces born from caramelized sauce). It was served pretty bare on the potato bun, as customers can choose from two Carolina barbecue sauces, the Texas sauce, a traditional sauce, and the Alabama sauce.
Finally, if the smell of frying food didn’t lead you to get one, then the lit up, big sign reading “Funnel Cake” drew you to stand in line for the carnival-classic. It’s exactly what I would have wanted out of a funnel cake. Crispy on the exterior, and quite light on the interior, with a generous topping of confectioner’s sugar. There isn’t much more to it than that. It feels like it would be difficult to somehow go wrong with a funnel cake.
Culture Shock food doesn’t fail to please because there’s something for everybody. I didn’t get to go to Halal Guys, or grab a cupcake, because food truck food gets pricey after about two tacos, but I heard great things about the gyros Halal Guys had to offer. Most of what Culture Shock had to offer has been on campus before, so if you missed something, you’ll be in luck next year.