Lonely Planet recently asked me to do some research about Jozi food trucks for a book about food trucks in different cities around the world. Dream assignment!
Once I started investigating the Joburg food truck scene, I realized they’re everywhere and there are all different kinds. There are the hipster food trucks, brightly painted with clever branding and usually selling some kind of ethnic food with a twist. There are the basic South African food trucks — which are technically trailers, not trucks — usually plain white, selling down-home South African staples at rock-bottom prices. Then there are the trucks that fall somewhere in between.
This post is by no means comprehensive. But here is a selection of delicious Jozi food trucks I’ve come across in my recent travels. Note some of these trucks move around so you might not find them in the same places I did.
Hangry Chef: South African/Indian cuisine (Joburg CBD and elsewhere)
I discovered the Hangry Chef, which at the time was called the Chilli Chef, in the parking lot next to Standard Bank’s headquarters on Simmonds Street in downtown Joburg. (There are tons of great-looking food trucks in that spot on weekdays and you don’t have to work for Standard Bank to access them.) Hangry Chef is run by chef Dalmain Samuel and his wife Lynelle, serving South African food with an Indian twist.
On the day I visited Hangry Chef I ordered the chicken tikka with cole slaw over naan bread, topped with yogurt sauce. It cost R60 and it was fantastic.
Lynelle and Dalmain are South Africans of Indian descent and they originally come from Durban — South Africa’s Indian food Mecca. But not all of Hangry Chef’s dishes are traditionally Indian. They also serve burgers, beef stew, and all kinds of other Western dishes, with Indian flair. Chicken tikka with slaw is a good example.
Braai Point: South African (Braamfontein Werf)
Braai Point, which sets up daily in Braamfontein Werf (aka Milpark) near 44 Stanley Ave., is somewhere in between a hipster food truck and a traditional South African food trailer. The trailer is nicely branded and has its own Facebook page. But the food is purely South African and very affordable.
I was excited to find Braai Point serves South African steam bread, also called dumpling — this moist, sweet, boiled bread that I absolutely love. I ordered three think slices of the bread with a generous serving of beef stew for R40 — yum, yum yum.
Braai Point also serves other traditional South African favorites like grilled meat, pap, butternut, spinach, and chakalaka.
Chilli Mania: Korean cuisine (Sandton and elsewhere)
I found Chilli Mania at the Hoods, a parking lot on Fredman Drive in Sandton where food trucks gather every Friday. Full disclosure: I’m not sure Chilli Mania is an actual food truck; it’s more of a stall. But it’s run by a Korean woman (whose name I embarrassingly forgot to ask [UPDATE: It’s Christine!]) and her food was the best-looking offering at the Hoods on the day I went. The Hoods has different vendors every week so check their Facebook page for updates.
I ordered the R60 Korean fried chicken wrap from Chilli Mania. The pork belly also looked amazing.
Tselane’s Kitchen: South African cuisine (Midrand)
I like Tselane’s Kitchen so much that I drove all the way across town to Midrand to eat there — twice.
Tselane (right) and her colleague Sunday (left) serve up some grilled steak with pap and beetroot salad.
Tselane, who also goes by her English name, Johanna, is a former domestic worker from Tembisa. A couple of years ago she decided to quit her housekeeper job and buy a food trailer. She experimented with a few different Midrand locations before settling on a spot in 16th Road across from the Hyundai dealership.
I’ve sampled Tselane’s beef stew and also her grilled chicken, which I found particularly good. But her most popular item is her chakalaka, a spicy South African relish made with vegetables, beans, and chillies that is often served with pap (maize meal porridge).
Tselane also makes vetkoek (“fat cake” in English) — fried dough stuffed with curried mince.
Special mention goes to Doug from the Curbside Café coffee truck. I met Doug while he was selling coffee in Kramerville and he was the first person to tip me off about the Hoods food trucks. I also highly recommend Doug’s coffee, which you can find in various places around the Jozi northern suburbs.
The next time you’re tempted to grab McDonald’s for lunch, consider seeking out a food truck instead. I’m sure you’ll find one nearby. Local is lekker.