Reggae Jerk Chicken Truck Gets Redemption in a Plantain Stuffed Burrito
Anybody who has ever moved from one great food city to another must know what I’m going through. When I moved from L.A. to New York 5 years ago, one of the first things I tried to do was find a replacement burrito for all the great ones I had left behind. (I failed.) And now that I’ve moved back, so much of my first few months of eating have been dedicated to finding replacement lunches for all my NYC favorites. Thai food? That was easy. Pizza? Good enough. Ramen? Done and done. The India Jones truck wasn’t quite the Kati Roll/Biriyani cart replacement I had hoped for, but their butter chicken more than made up for it. But what about the Jamaican Dutchy?! Where am I going to get my stew peas? Hello Reggae Chicken Truck.
I have been pretty excited to try the Reggae Jerk Chicken truck ever since reading about it on Squid Ink back in January. I’m a big fan of jerk chicken, but I also love me some oxtails, curried goat, stew peas, and plantains… and was hoping that this could be my Dutchy replacement.
They told Squid Ink that they would be doing jerk chicken and jerk pork, plus offer specials like salt fish- but when I hit the truck up on Friday on Wilshire just east of Western, there was just jerk chicken. The chicken is offered a few different ways… as a small plate ($4) or large ($6) with fries or rice, and as a burrito ($5) or tacos, natch (3 for $5). There’s also a wrap, which leaves out the rice and beans… but why on earth would you want to do that?
Sadly, the jerk chicken is skinless and not on the bone (bones and skin add flavor, people!) and is cut into pieces (think free samples of mall food court teriyaki chicken.) The good news is the rub is really flavorful (although purists will want it a little spicier), and for $6 the small plate plus plantains ($2) was a nice little meal (although I would recommend the large for any real eaters. The small on its own would be more of a snack.) The rice had a smattering of black beans already mixed in, and was tasty… although a big spoonful of peas on top would have been a huge improvement. The sweet and spicy sauce they put on top has a nice tang to it, after the first bite. But halfway through the dish, I was kind of sick of it (too sweet) and wanted to just taste the great rub on the chicken. Next time I’ll skip it altogether.
I went for the small plate only so I could also try the burrito (yes I was by myself, and yes that is how I do it.) But at the last second I had a flash of brilliance inspired by a lunch in Midtown Manhattan many years ago. Plantains in the burrito! Thankfully the truck agreed to do it (for an extra $1) and voila… plantain stuffed, jerk chicken burrito!
If you enjoy it all together on a plate with a fork, how could it be bad wrapped up in a tortilla? Obviously you have to be down with the carb on carb action to like something like this, and it is on the drier side- so you have to like your burritos kind of dry. But it’s nothing a little bit of that sugary hot sauce couldn’t fix. (Although not too much, because it drowns out the subtle sweetness of the plantains and the spicy kick of the chicken.) Wrap it in roti, and add a scoop of Jamaican peas (aka beans) it would be perfection… but this is a good start.
All in all it was a decent lunch, and I would go back if they were parked in front of my office… but it’s no replacement for real Jamaican food. I asked the owner why she didn’t offer things like oxtails and stew peas, and her answer was sad but not surprising. “Because people around here wouldn’t eat it.” And rather than try to convert the misguided public with a tasty and authentic sledgehammer to the gut, the truck consciously decided to dumb down the food just enough to appeal to the masses. “We would like to be the Taco Bell of Jamaican food,” she told me. Terrible, but understandable. Just know this Reggae Chicken truck… if you served real stew peas with pig tails, or curried goat or oxtails I’d be first in line. And I’d carry your message of deliciousness to the top of the hills and shout it to the masses… and together we could begin to convert all those who have yet to see the light.
In the meantime, I’ll just head down to Slauson and Crenshaw.
- I love jerk chicken! (And don’t work anywhere near Cha Cha Chicken)
- I like skinless, bonesless chicken… so this is perfect.
- Fried plantains FTW!
- Real Jamaican food is way to far away from my office, so this is a nice treat when they’re in the neighborhood
- How can you be mad at any truck that’s willing to stuff their burritos with plantains?
- I like a little heat, but don’t like it when things are too spicy
- I’m a purist. Jerk chicken should be on the bone, skin on and grilled over a fire of some sort
- The sauce they pour over the top is way too sweet
- Rice is good, but they need some proper peas!
- Where’s the oxtails? The stew peas? Curried goat? C’mon! What do you guys care more about? Earning a living, or making one solitary, short fat blogger happy!
Reggae Jerk Chicken Truck, Find their location on Twitter