Ian Deleporte is bringing Malaysia to San Francisco in the form of a pedal powered food cart. This custom made bike cart, complete with a stove for his wok, prep and storage space, should be up and running by spring. The project is titled MamakSF; the word mamak is a term for the street food vendors that are so popular in Malaysia. Ian plans to be San Francisco's first pedal-powered mamak, and be will putting a modern, personal twist on his traditional recipes.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to his promo event, and interviewed him while I scarfed down his decadent creations. I lounged around his apartment, which was packed with gun-ho eaters, drinking beer and enjoying his unadulterated view of Twin Peaks as he churned out dish after dish. My personal favorites were the kuih kodok [toad cakes - toadies] deep fried banana fritters laced with coriander, cumin, and cayenne pepper, and the rojak, a crisp salad with coriander and pineapple that is tossed in a spicy, molasses like shrimp paste dressing. The salad is also available vegetarian. He is hesitant to tell me exactly what he will be cooking when the cart opens because his menu will change daily based on the best ingredients he can find at the local market and farmers market.
I love Ian's idea because it has so much potential, but is relatively inexpensive to get started. He is taking the concept of a food truck and stripping it down to his bear minimum – no carbon footprint, no smelly fumes to sully your taste buds – just good old fashioned pedal power! With the rise of property costs in San Francisco there is something so lovely about having the mobility to bring a service to anyone. In many ways, Ian is revolutionizing the workings of modern street food by bringing it back to its origins.
Granted, he is not the first to make this happen in the bay; A couple food cart bikes seem to have been birthed around the same time. Rose Johnson has created Hot Bike!, which churns out taco-based creations. But most notably, Alfonzo Dominguez has created El TacoBike. He serves up classic Mexican street food such as tacos and tortas. He stands out from the other biking entrepreneurs because he has already established a name for himself as co-owner of the popular Oakland hotspot, Tamarindo. I find his new venture especially interesting because much of the lure of a food bike is that it is an affordable way to experiment with a business idea for those who do not yet have access to large kitchens.
Part of the reason why there are not more street food bikes out there, (we all know there are enough healthy people in the bay to step up the the physical challenge,) is that there are just so many regulations as to how one can legally sell food outside. The bike must have proper ventilation fans for the stove tops- yes even though it is outside- a trash can, a sink with potable water, and one is only aloud to reheat food on the bike, not prepare it. The food must then be prepared in a licensed kitchen, which can be rented out from commissaries rather cheaply. This labyrinth of laws can be rather daunting to the foodie newbie.
MamakSF is so special not only because of the bike and cuisine, but because Ian is just such a character. Months ago I helped him create his kickstarter video and was so impressed by his expanse of knowledge on both bikes and food, and his compelling ability to make you really believe in his idea. You can view the video Here.
Ian plans to bring his business to special events, art galleries, office parks... you name it. If you are with a large group of people and in desperate need of some spicy satisfaction, tweet at him and he will come your way! And yes, I asked: even if it is at the top of a hill.
You can follow Ian on twitter @Mamaksf or on his website at http://www.mamaksf.com/.