Monday, May 09, 2011

Tapa Boy - Orange County

It's with sadness that I review Tapa Boy. No, don't get me wrong. I loved it. It's just I had hoped to have tried Manila Machine first before it retired to do just private catering events.

You see, I've long been a fan of Manila Machine's owner and chef, Marvin Galputos (a.k.a. Burnt Lumpia), whom I regard as one of the funniest food bloggers in the country. As a reader, I witnessed his growth from an assimilated Pinoy with a "retarded appreciation of Filipino food" to a well-rounded Filipino food scholar, chef, and upcoming cookbook author, who passionately chronicled his efforts in an often hilarious blog.

Manila Machine was a culmination of his journey, and I was proud to be one of the first members of the press to report on the roll out, the first Filipino food truck in L.A. But then I was bummed when it announced it would stop prowling the streets last month after garnering much kudos from the likes of Jonathan Gold.

It leaves behind at least three other Filipino food truck to pick up the slack in LA County. One of them is this truck, Tapa Boy, which actually made the trek to Irvine and parked right where I just happened to be during my lunch hour.

Tapa Boy is a silog specialist. The Filipino answer to the American bacon and egg breakfast, "silog" is a concatenation of two words: sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (fried egg). Together they form the suffix and anchor for things like the tocilog, which features tocino, a cured pork product cut from the fattiest parts of the pig.

Tocino is a breakfast meat that glistens like no other. It beams with a ruddy color almost akin to Chinese char siu, but thanks to annatto it's even brighter, as if it's been dipped in Maraschino cherry syrup. Once its cooked, tocino takes on a candy-like sheen and wiggles in your mouth before melting like an unctuous piece of pork belly.

To beat back the richness, Tapa Boy supplies a spicy vinegar of its own making that it thickens to the consistency of bottled Italian dressing. Also there to temper and contrast: plain-diced tomato, cucumber, and achara, pickled shreds of green papaya. The latter does it best of all, pairing with the pork more naturally than sauerkraut to a hot dog.

Together, it's a breakfast that I'd gladly have for lunch, dinner, or any meal in between. The egg is cooked in a ring mold, like McDonald's does with its McMuffins, but the yolk is left runny to bleed its nectar onto the rice below. The starch then accepts. The grains moisten slightly, each forkful not sticky, not gummy, still loose and flowing like basmati. Strewn bits of golden fried shards of garlic burst from microscopic granules.

Turon, crispy egg rolls filled with sweet plantains, were dessert. I washed it down with a drink made with shredded melon suspended in a sugar-sweetened mix of water and its juices. A boba straw is supplied to suck it all up.

And I even like the truck's exterior design, which is dolled up to look like a ultra-pimped out Jeepney, the highly stylized and colorful form of public transportation that patrols the Philippines.

You can find the Tapa Boy truck in Orange County this week, before it retreats to L.A. It will appear Wednesday night, May 11, from 5:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Irvine Lanes (3415 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA) and Friday, May 13, from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. for a fundraiser at Fullerton High School (201 East Chapman Avenue, Fullerton, CA).

So to both Manila Machine and Tapa Boy, I say, "Mabuhay!"

Tapa Boy

Tilted Kilt - Long Beach


At 11:03 PM, Anonymous JB said...

If the food is as good as the art on the truck, Tapa Boy is going to be very popular.

Love the tagline:
"Filipino food on Filipino time"
(Hopefully, not true...we 'mericans don't get a long lunch break.)

And yolks...the nectar of eggs.
How do you coalesce words into such metaphorically seductive prose?

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll give you a lil tip: Us Filipinos don't really like the Manila Machine or The White Rabbit Truck or any of those other trucks. Largely because they make no sense to us since we can make the same food at home for a fraction of the cost.

In fact, the only people who buy into those foods are naive Filipino college students who consider themselves scholarly in Pinoy history because they wear a Pac-Man shirt and a hat in the colorways of the national flag.

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS. I think it's strange how you've made no mention as to the recent/coming fall of the food truck craze as described by Roy Choi (of Kogi fame) to the LA Times.

Here is an article on said-article:

At 3:45 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


"Filipino food on Filipino time".

Yeah, that one was a headscratcher. Couldn't decide if there was some sort of meta joke going on!

And I do *occasionally* get lucky with the metaphors!


While I agree with you on this statement "...we can make the same food at home for a fraction of the cost", one can apply the same logic to just about everything. Cooking at home is always going to cost less. And most times you can even make it taste better than the restaurants. For instance, I can make a tastier burger than In-N-Out; yet I ate there today. So perhaps the question to ask is why anyone bothers to go out at all?

And yes, that article is a good one. I read it the other day, but it seems to state the obvious: the hype created too many food trucks.

Now the trend has reversed itself. The hip thing to do these days is to say "I'm Sick of Food Trucks" like Jason Kessler from Bon Appetit and Tom Colicchio who said that the worst current restaurant trend is "the mobile restaurant thing."

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Marvin said...

Hey Elmo, thanks so much for the kind words. And when MM was in Costa Mesa last year, I sent you an email via the OC Weekly contact form to give you a heads up, but I'm not sure if you ever got it:(

As always, thanks for your support of Filipino food.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You were in Costa Mesa last year?! Dammit! No, I never got that e-mail. If I did, I would've shouted it up from the rooftops and been there! Oh well, hope the cookbook writing is going well.

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

I'm sad I never got to try Manila Machine before Marvin closed up shop too. Food trucks are just too hard for me to get to.

Umm, how much do I love that you knew and used concatenate? :)

At 9:48 PM, Blogger caninecologne said...

hi there! i didn't know that the manila machine "retired", bummer. they should bring tapa boy down to san diego! great writeup on this food truck. you can't go wrong with a silog breakfast.

and even though us Filipinos can make the same food for cheaper, i think it's good to support filipino/filipino american owned businesses.

thanks for giving props and exposure to Filipino food.

word ver:


Untio me now I say!

At 8:50 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Wandering Chopsticks!

When I found out Marvin shelved Manila Machine, it didn't seem real at first (the post was on April 1st), and I kicked myself for not getting off my duff to try them when I had the chance.

You're right about food trucks though: for all the convenience that food trucks are supposed to provide, if you're trying to eat at a particular one, they're anything but convenient.

Concatenate is one of my favorite words along with gazebo, which I don't get to use as much as I can use concatenate!


Just doing my part to get the word out on Filipino food: the most underrated cuisine next to Indonesian.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger caninecologne said...

thanks my indonesian brother!!!

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Tapa Boy said...


(sorta came across this a little late)

Thank you for the awesome description of our 'silogs. It made me want to eat our own cooking all over again, and I should be sick of it by now...but I'm really not. I'm so glad you liked what we had to offer.

Just to clarify, the "...on Filipino Time." slogan was a concocted during a (not-so inspired) late night brainstorming session, and it's had its share of mockery and incredulous double takes. Still, it is recognizable and we've seen it start a hundred conversations among pinoy+american groups who have been in line truck-side. Much like the balut we served as a secret menu item when we launched.

I too was saddened to see Manila Machine went 'off-street', having followed them from the day the launched. I formally met Marvin and Nastassia at FPAC last year and they're great people. I wish they were still around but knowing first hand about the stresses of keeping a truck running, I can understand some of the reasons for giving up the street. I salute them for paving the way and helping make filipino food more visible in the American mainstream.

Again, thank you for getting the word out on us and please visit us again! We're working on an exciting project that will hopefully take us to the OC more often, stay tuned!

Mike @ Tapa Boy


I really love the "silog specialists" phrase, might we steal it? =)

At 10:24 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Hey Mike,

E-mail me at elmomonster75 at yahoo dot com and tell me more about this OC project! I need to know more!!!


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