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22/06/2017 | by Christian Vaughan
Portuguese food does not enjoy the high profile of more well known European cuisines but that is more of a reflection on the Portuguese people than their food. They are understated, simple even but just under the surface they are fiery and passionate.
And the same can be said for many countries around the world, take a close look at how they prepare their cuisine, the flavours and the time taken and you have a window into the culture and values of its people. Just think Japan, France, Mexico, Thailand and Italy.
The extensive maritime exploration of the New World in the 15th and early 16th centuries meant that Portugal helped lead the exciting food revolution in Europe and defined how the Europeans looked at food. The sailing ships returned with cinnamon, pepper, cloves and nutmeg. They introduced mainland Europe to tomatoes, capsicums, chilies of all types, potatoes, kidney beans, turkey, and avocados. Imagine the European cooking without these flavours. God bless those sailors I say!
07/01/2017 | by Christian Vaughan
We heard rumblings when we first started in the Gold Coast food truck scene that the first three months were “do or die”. And we admit, they were rough but we survived. And now having traded for a full year, we have paused to look back at what was an amazing first year of Barraca.
Having been in the food sector for most of our adult lives we knew that we had the experience, the knowledge and the skills to grow a successful food truck business. IF the Gold Coast was ready and it could be done, we knew WE could do it. But despite all the planning, the forecasting and the educated guesses also knew that there were things we didn't know.
We knew that we had amazing, time tested recipes and a truck that was going to blow the Gold Coast away but like any new business, we just didn't know how the Gold Coast was going to react to Portuguese food. We were confident that the Gold Coast food scene had evolved. No longer content with salad bars, glorified takeaways and all you can eat buffets, the locals were after fresh and healthy cuisine that was new and interesting. We had been sitting on this business idea for a couple of years and felt sure that this was the right time. Outside of piri piri Portuguese food was restricted to a couple of ‘family restaurants’ and was largely unknown. In our early days I remember both of us trying to peep around the corner of the serving window to see our customer’s reactions on that first bite. With every nod, every smile and every compliment our confidence grew and we felt reassured that we were on the mark and delivering on value and quality. A huge ‘thank you’ to all our amazing customers who turn up week after week and appreciate what we do. We genuinely love doing this and you make all the hard work worthwhile.
We didn't know how difficult it would prove to find somewhere to trade from. After a series of straight up “no thank yous” I soon realised I was best to stay in the car and have Sandra walk in and doing the pitching. Food trucks were starting to gain mainstream popularity on the coast but many thought we were trying to sell cream buns or salad sandwiches from a smoko van. Many business owners simply could not understand why we would want to do what we were asking permission for. We drove around the Gold Coast from Southport to Palm Beach scouting for trading locations that had everything we had learnt was necessary for street trading to be successful. And there weren't many but slowly we picked off a few and built our mobile street grill up from the concrete up. We didn't start trading markets on the weekends whilst we persisted with our day jobs. We quit our jobs, jumped in with no plan B. We did know that if we were to be successful with this new business and this new business model that people would need to see us and it was this philosophy that maintained our high spirits when we would only sell a couple of meals in a 2-3 hour period. “Don’t worry, this is a marketing exercise” we told ourselves. To the business owners who saw the passion in our spirits and gave us a chance - thank you.
We also didn't know how rewarding supporting local business was going to prove to be. Very early on we decided that our suppliers needed to be local. We would only support local businesses that were still privately owned and operated. It wasn't necessarily the cornerstone of our marketing strategy but it came from a belief that food trucks were people businesses and we needed to contribute to as many local people as we could. And that meant working with the Mum and Dad businesses where people know your name and they care about their products. I didn't know how rewarding that decision would turn out to be. We have developed some great relationships with our suppliers and I value their contribution to what we are doing. I still remember my first fruit and vegetable order arriving and being in boxes when I only ordered kilograms. I can only imagine what they were thinking when I continued to order a kilo of this and a kilo of that every day or two. Thanks to all our suppliers for the patience shown. We are now ordering in full boxes, bags of produce and in dozens and I couldn't be prouder.
And in such a competitive, emerging and positively restricted trading environment how could we ever have known how amazingly friendly most of the other food truck operators would be? We definitely didn't know that! For the most part (there were some with a severe case of stinking thinking), the existing food truck and trailer operators were welcoming and encouraging. There is a common held belief that as long as another truck is not selling the same type of food then more trucks mean more business for everyone. The more traders we have out in the neighbourhoods offering fresh and interesting street food, the more customers will think of us when they are hungry. In the 12 months that we have been trading, we have seen many new trucks and trailers join the market and its rumoured that there are currently 40 awaiting inspection to gain their mobile food licences. Despite this boom, the industry enjoys a very inclusive environment and that is something we are committed to continuing. Its fantastic to see because we believe that it is only early days. The advantages of eating from a food truck are many and varied and we believe that our customer base here on the coast is still only very small. Its growing and it will grow quicker once more and more people experience food trucks and tell all their friends.
And now with 2017 just a matter of days away, our focus turns to the future. We are always working on new recipes, new meals, new locations and new festivals or events. The reasons we started Barraca remain and we still jump out of bed excited for the day ahead. We also look forward to continuing to see your smiling faces at the serving window through the next twelve months. We hope the Portuguese rooster brings you lots of luck and have a happy new year!
02/08/2016 | by Christian Vaughan
Our little guys are our 'WHY" and less than a week separates their birthdays. We decided to surprise them for their birthday this year with a holiday! Both kids had Fiji on their Dream boards so that's where our adventure took us!! Kids had no idea and we worked hard to fool them with a pretend fight & a pretend catch up with some friends! We did a pretend getting lost at the airport which led us to needing directions! Mission accomplished so here is the video of us telling them! Their reaction was priceless!!
08/10/2015 | by Christian Vaughan
Whilst most people are very excited about the prospect of having a Portuguese food truck roaming the streets of the Gold Coast, not many can actually say they know what Portuguese food is. Modern Portuguese food is best described as Afro European with a lick of Asian. It has been influenced by its ex-colonies Mozambique and Angola in Africa, Brazil in South America, Goa in Southern India and even Macau in China. And even if you are not familiar with these countries cuisines, Aussies know and love the flavours and ingredients used around the world that Portuguese food draws on. Lots of lemon, garlic, paprika, piri piri chilli, oregano with grilled meats, salads and the obligatory crusty breads, fried potatoes and rice! Yum. Best described it is honest, flavourful and hearty. Your taste buds will awaken and your belly can rest assured, it is satisfied.
Probably the most well known dish is Piri Piri Chicken made popular by a couple of well known fast food chains. The Portuguese discovered the Piri Piri chilli whilst trading with remote south eastern Africans trade posts over 500 years ago. But they were not first, the Indians and Arabs were already well established and no doubt enjoying the flame grilled piri piri chicken on remote unspoilt beaches well before the Portuguese showed up. But before you reach for the glass of water with bulging eyes, spluttering, “I don't like spicy food!!!!” let me assure you, there is a big difference between spicy and hot. Our food does contain a variety of exotic spices but it is only those dishes that state “Piri Piri” that you will find ‘spicy’ and for those of you who love the burn there is plenty of hot sauce to go around. Piri Piri is our sauce of Inspiration.
And it is here in Mozambique that I am writing our first barraca blog. When my beautiful Portuguese wife suggested I take some time out and go back to Africa and be inspired whilst our food truck was being built…. I was a good husband and agreed wholeheartedly. For those of you who have been to Mozambique and have seen its amazing coastlines and enjoyed the fact that it is well off the tourist track, I am sorry for letting this out of the bag. For those of you who have never considered a trip or maybe don't even know where it is, look it up. I have no doubts that in 5 - 10 years you will see the travel shows with some perky young Aussie B grade celebrity singing the virtues of an ‘untouched paradise’ with ‘ mouth watering local dishes’ and ‘ local people with smiles that light up the night sky’.
We have been to Mozambique many times and each time we leave wishing for our own little barraca on the beach. My wife, Sandra has family in the capital, Maputo and having some local contacts on the ground certainly makes things easier. There are very few rules which for an Aussie is refreshing but disconcerting all at once. There is a certain way that things are done over there and sometimes you just gotta let it happen African style.
Peace has long ago been declared in Moz, however, after 24 years of civil war, with most of those seeing Mozambique rated as the #1 most dangerous country in the world, it has its challenges now in rebuilding itself back to its former glory. And they are doing a great job. The Chinese are buying in in a big way and assisting with roads and services - not to mention probably the biggest building in all of Maputo, the casino!
But enough of the history lesson, I am here for the food. And despite eating out on the streets breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7 days, I have not grown bored with their dishes.
The coffee is outstanding. The morning Pastel de nata (egg tarts) and crusty bread toasted ham and cheese are perfect. Lunches are Bifanas (pork buns) and Pregos (garlic beef rolls), full flavoured and hearty. They also do incredible Bacalau which is the dried and salted cod fish.
And the best in my opinion is the Piri Piri Chicken, grilled to perfection, slowly. As the chicken cooks and drys out the meat reabsorbs the moisture from the sauce which is mopped every couple of minutes. Incredible and nothing like you may have eaten before!!
I have had an amazing trip and have been welcomed into a number of kitchens whilst here in Maputo and shown some secret recipes, techniques and sauces that I have sworn never to divulge. Thanks again Moz we will be back soon.
Portuguese food is not complicated but you gotta get it right. Like the artist Vincent Van Gough once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. Could he have been talking garlic, lemon, chilli and salt?
03/12/2015 | by Christian Vaughan