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Keep on (food) truckin'

Lamb Steak Plate with 3 different sauces to choose from: garlic yoghurt, cheese and spicy tomato. Photo by Philippine Daily Inquirer

Publication Date : 22-01-2013

 

A food shack offers 20-something entrepreneurs 'a different shawarma experience' in the Philippines' financial capital

 

Nowadays, food trucks have suddenly become all the rage. Thanks to that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it end credits scene from “The Avengers”, shawarma shacks have become so popular in the United States that they’ve practically made eating street food on a curb look cool.

Thankfully, Pinoy foodies won’t have to hop on a plane to New York or Los Angeles to experience that kind of scene. Even though the now-ubiquitous “Jollijeep” shacks have proven themselves indispensable for penny-pinching yuppies everywhere, we sometimes wish for a nice little upgrade from the usual budget meals to go.

Cashing in on the food truck trend is a group of 20-something entrepreneurs that aims to offer “a different shawarma experience”.

If you happened to be in the Glorietta 3 area in Makati last December, you’ve most likely caught a glimpse (or whiff) of Shawarma Bros’ late-night fare at Cucina Andare (“Kitchen On-the-Go”), Manila’s first food truck market organised by the same people behind Mercato Centrale at The Fort.

Brainchild

Shawarma Bros is the brainchild of Ateneo buddies Rammy de Claro, Gab Sobrepena, Abe Castro, Paolo Layug, and Joey Reyes. After months of brainstorming, Layug, who’s from the US, suggested starting a food truck business here in Manila. Since all five guys love Persian food, and really liked the concept of the halal carts in New York, they decided to create their own spin on the popular street meat.

What’s so different about Shawarma Bros? For one, it caters to people who prefer shawarma eaten with rice instead of in a wrap. Also, it’s not the usual meat-on-a-spit food kiosk, which probably might puzzle passersby who are used to ogling the meat while it’s vertically roasting and dripping juices.

Another thing is that the partners themselves are usually found slaving away behind the grill, which probably accounts for the increasing number of female foodies flocking to the truck.

Having started operations just last December, Shawarma Bros joins the rest of Manila’s food truck pioneers at Cucina Andare. This food market is pegged as the high-end Mercato—a classy, eat-and-run type of joint, if you will.

They’re very conveniently parked at the heart of Makati’s business and commercial hub, where nine-to-fivers can pig out after work and graveyard-shifters can sneak out to for a filling midnight snack. Apart from Shawarma Bros, there’s a wide selection of treats to sample, from Chef Broosy’s Asian fusion meals to Mio Gelato’s artisanal ice cream to Guactruck’s Filipino-Mexican fare.

Finding Shawarma Bros’ food truck is easy. Just look for the bright yellow-and-orange bodykit (created by Atoy Llave of Atoy Customs) with the menu painted all over in big, bold black letters. That—and the tantalising, smoky scent of grilled meat—would be pretty hard to miss.

On the menu

Shawarma Bros’ menu is straightforward. You can choose from chicken, beef and lamb shawarma served with biryani rice and drizzled with any two of the three sauces: garlic yoghurt, cheese and hot tomato. Using a secret marinade concocted and taught to the Bros by a certified chef, all three types of meat are perfectly seasoned and cooked in a way that should sufficiently clog your arteries just by looking at them. Other menu offerings, like pita pockets, are in the works.

While beef is their bestseller and chicken the “healthy option”, the Lamb Steak Platter is the Bros’ specialty as well as their personal favourite. We have to agree. Some might be daunted by the gamey, greasy texture (and hefty price tag) that lamb is known for, but in this case, the meat is so tender and flavourful that you’ll most likely find yourself craving for seconds. Not bad for a 200-peso (US$4) meal. Don’t forget to try their house iced tea, too.

Reception has been pretty good. More than good, actually, as they’ve already gained a loyal following ever since their debut at the Manila Auto Salon in late November. “A lot of people come back for the lamb, actually,” observed Sobrepena, and for darn good reason.

Flagship brand

Shawarma Bros is actually the flagship brand for the quintet’s startup company, H2004 Ventures, which De Claro dubbed as a “food truck creation firm.” Understandably, they’re very hands-on with their “baby”, what with all five Bros manning the truck when able.

Now that the demand for their rice meals has considerably risen (plus, the guys still have their respective day jobs to juggle), they’re hoping to have enough manpower by the time they start their envisioned expansion and day-to-day operations at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

Until then, shawarma lovers will have to be contented with getting their shawarma rice fix only in Glorietta on weekends, served fresh and hot by the Bros themselves. Judging from the remarkable turnout so far, not to mention the occasional giggly tweets about the “cute servers”, that’s not such a bad thing.

Check out Shawarma Bros and the other food truck pioneers at Cucina Andare at the Glorietta 3 Park (the area with UCC Garden Café, fronting Shangri-La Hotel Makati and 6750) every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

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