Skip to content

28 Catt. 4: In re PhoWheels

2014 February 26

Opinion of JUSTICE CATTLEYA, in chambers.

Several months ago, I made a sua sponte appearance at PhoWheels for bánh mì. I was pleasantly surprised by the truck’s tofu bánh mì on a baguette, but disappointed by the pork belly bánh mì on a doughnut. See In re PhoWheels, 24 Catt. 1 (2013). After the decision was announced, PhoWheels participated in general commenting per the Supreme Cart’s Rule of Procedure 2-7.

Comment from PhoWheels

Comment from PhoWheels

“Come back & try the tacos,” PhoWheels said of their menu item that apparently always sells out. After returning to try the musubi tacos, I not only believe this claim; I completely understand why.

PhoWheels’s regular menu offers tacos with the same fillings that one can get on a bánh mì (tofu, pork belly, or chicken). A fourth option (musubi) can be found on the menu as a special. Normally I never order so-called “specials.” See In re DC Empanadas, 1 Catt. 3 (2011) (expressing skepticism of specials). But PhoWheels has been serving musubi tacos off and on since August of last year, so the dish doesn’t feel like an experiment gone awry or like old ingredients in a poor disguise. With no alarm bells ringing in my head, I ordered the musubi tacos. An order of two was $9.

Musubi Tacos

Musubi Tacos

What is a musubi taco exactly? PhoWheels takes a piece of roti canai (Malaysian flatbread) and wraps it around cubed spam, thin slices of Chinese sausage, pickled radishes and carrots, and rice, and then tops it all off with nori, wasabi sesame seeds, and a generous drizzle of Kewpie mayo.

The regular reader knows by now that fusion dishes more often than not confuse me. See, e.g., In re TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011). But finally (finally!) I have found the complete opposite of fusion confusion. Even without the Supreme Cart’s presumption of affirmance for street food like tacos, I would enthusiastically affirm. See In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011) (defining street food); In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012) (discussing burden of proof); In re District Taco, 21 Catt. 2 (2013) (finding tacos to be street food). PhoWheels’s musubi taco was the most unique, cohesive, and balanced fusion dish that I have ever encountered as a Justice of mobile gastronomy.

The vehicle holding everything together—the Malaysian flatbread—was divine. It was buttery and flaky. On the inside, it was fluffy and chewy. The composition reminded me of a beautifully thick and chewy Chinese dumpling wrapper, but with a slightly crisp exterior. Its malleability allowed it to snugly envelop the taco filling, making something that very easily could have been messy to eat, not messy at all.

The filling was an explosion of sweet (from the Chinese sausage), tangy (from the pickled radishes and carrots), spicy (from the wasabi sesame seeds), and salty (from the spam and nori). It was a mix of soft and warm (rice), and cold and crunchy (pickled radishes and carrots). And the rich and creamy Kewpie mayo was the cherry on top.

Interestingly–and this is going to sound like a bad thing–the meats (spam and Chinese sausage) were not the stars here. They were overpowered by the nori and wasabi sesame seeds. One might think that the proper response to this would be to increase the portions of spam and Chinese sausage in the taco, but I’m not sure that this would be right. I so enjoyed the salty and earthy flavors of the nori and wasabi that I just didn’t care about the individual contributions of the spam and Chinese sausage. However, what I would change is PhoWheels’s preparation of the spam. I found the cubed pieces of spam to be very soft, and I would have preferred it if they had been fried until crispy.

Overall, PhoWheels’s musubi taco was bold and inspired. Must try? I think so. Would I return for it again? I already have. I would consider this to be PhoWheels’s signature dish, and if I had a vote in the matter, I’d promote this from the specials menu to the regular menu ASAP.

AFFIRMED. It is so ordered.

Comments are closed.