Nastassia Johnson (Let Me Eat Cake) and Marvin Gapultos (Burnt Lumpia) teamed up to launch The Manila Machine on June 10 at the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, becoming the city’s first food bloggers to start a truck, and the first truck to specialize in Filipino cuisine.
“We first became acquainted through Twitter and via our blogs,” recounts Johnson, who most recently worked as the Assistant GM and Director of Social Media for Joan’s on Third. Since they’re both Filipino American, and after they realized that “LA is seriously lacking accessible Filipino food,” the choice of cuisine was obvious. “The more we talked, the more we became confident we could make a Filipino truck a success,” Johnson said.
Gapultos learned to cook Filipino food from his grandmother, mother and aunties and dove into a deep pool of research to help develop his recipes for The Manila Machine. He also relied on skills he learned as a recipe tester for cookbook authors. For the truck, he’ll handle savory dishes. Look for options like pork belly and pineapple adobo, with chunks of pork belly braised in a “sweet and tangy” sauce of vinegar, soy and pineapples; lumpia Shanghai, deep-fried egg rolls filled with seasoned pork, carrots and spicy ginger; and pan de sal sliders, featuring sweet pork and garlic sausage patties, caramelized onions, arugula, and mango jam on a soft Filipino roll. The Manila Machine will also offer weekly specials, and in cooler weather, look for more Filipino soups and stews.
Johnson targets desserts on her blog, and expanded on that focus by developing sweets for the truck. She’s making desserts like leche flan, a shaved ice dessert called halo halo, and turon, a sweet banana lumpia served with ice cream. Johnson will also head the front of the mobile “house.”
“We hope that we can introduce a taste of Filipino food to Los Angeles, and create a new appreciation for our cuisine,” said Johnson. “We want people to get excited about Filipino food.”
Track The Manila Machine’s progress (and location) on Twitter @manilamachine.