When BU Today’s editors asked us to do a story on Fàn Boy, the new Dining Services Asian-fusion food truck, video producer Alan Wong and I didn’t want to do the standard “new restaurant comes to Comm Ave” story, so we hit on a plan for shooting a video of me getting trained to cook on the truck, a big undertaking for someone who has never worked in a commercial kitchen. The driving force behind the decision, and a common theme in my life, was the free food.
Fàn Boy launched this summer after Dining Services heard from “hangry” (mix of hungry and angry) customers in places like East and South Campus complaining they didn’t have the same number of food options available in other parts of campus, says Dining Services social media coordinator Robert Flynn (SHA’96). Dining Services decided a food truck would solve the problem without the costs and headaches of a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant. The truck, hard to miss with its red and yellow stripes and a giant ninja painted on the side, serves Asian-fusion dishes such as stir fry and lettuce wraps. You’ll find it parked weekdays on Cummington Mall (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Agganis Way (3 to 6 p.m.), and South Campus (7 to 10 p.m.).
For anyone who’s never stepped inside a food truck, imagine a small, warm, obsessively organized kitchen-on-wheels. Those of you in Allston whose kitchen table doubles as a guest bed can appreciate the setup: a kitchen where it’s possible to reach the fridge, the stove, and the sink simply by pivoting left or right. The difference between this kitchen and those in Allston: everything here is state-of-the art and stainless, not 1970s “retro chic.” The truck’s small size and limited storage mean that all ingredients must be diced, prepped, and marinated beforehand in the Dining Services George Sherman Union kitchen and then cooked on the truck.
I was nervous as I tentatively knocked on Fàn Boy’s metal door a little before 11 a.m. on a recent Tuesday. The truck was parked on Cummington Mall, so most customers would be coming from the College of Communication and the College of Engineering. Three people were already hard at work inside the truck preparing for the lunch rush.
My teacher, Fàn Boy chef and sometime truck driver Ian Gray, had me start by pulling on a Fàn Boy T-shirt and tying a black kerchief around my head so I would look the part. I climbed aboard, and Alan got into position, standing on the back of the truck’s stairs. The plan was for him to film Ian teaching me how to make Fàn Boy Fries ($3.75 for a small, $5.75 for a large), a heart-stopping dish of waffle fries, beef, and various toppings. Per Ian’s instructions, I washed my hands in the wash sink (there’s another sink for food prep), before donning latex gloves and lifting a large bag of fries out of the freezer.
Ian told me to grab several fistfuls of the waffle fries and carefully drop them into the sizzling fryer for a minute or two. When they started to rise to the top, I was told to remove the basket from the fryer, shake it to get rid of excess oil, and drop the fries in a paper bowl. Next I pivoted behind me for a spoonful of marinated beef and dropped it on top of the fries. Ian told me I was being stingy, so I scooped on some more. Then I took squirt tubes of garlic kewpie mayo (a tangy Japanese mayonnaise) and spicy Seoul sauce and made squiggly lines on top of the beef. I finished off the dish by tossing a handful of green onions on top and liberally sprinkling ninja dust (a fancy name for a spice mix) on top.
I wanted to take a photo of my finished dish for the BU Today Instagram account, but Ian and Alan strongly suggested that I hand the fries over to the scowling customer outside instead.
For the remainder of the lunch shift I learned how to craft stir-fry bowls filled with tempura or grilled chicken (both $6.75), beef ($7), and curried vegetables ($6.50) and finish them off with a whole gamut of garnishes that customers can select from, including fried rice, pineapple cucumber relish, or pickled cucumbers. I watched as Ian handed out other orders, like Sumo Vegetable Egg Rolls ($4) and the K-Pop Taco ($2.50), which is filled with grilled chicken, kimchee, sauces, and toasted sesame seeds.
The work got a little easier as the afternoon wore on, but I couldn’t match Ian’s speed and grace as he expertly assembled dishes and handed them to diners. From the throngs of people lined up outside, it was evident that Fàn Boy would be feeding a lot of hungry customers this day. I had served about two dozen of them by the time Alan said I could call it quits—he had enough material of me making a fool out of myself.
We bid Ian good-bye and took our parting gift—lunch! We sat on the COM lawn and unsheathed our chopsticks from their red paper. The stir-fry had chunks of chicken and vegetables tossed with white rice, and our Fàn Boy Fries glistened in the sun. We devoured both.
I asked Alan how I did hosting the video. “Not bad…” he replied dryly. Anyone who knows Alan knows that “not bad” is his way of saying I hadn’t embarrassed myself as badly as he thought I might. Over the course of the day, I learned something about the speed and coordination needed to cook on a food truck, as well as how to host a video. I learned something else as well: I’m stingy when it comes to dishing out marinated beef.
Fàn Boy is parked weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Cummington Mall, from 3 to 6 p.m. on Agganis Way, and from 7 to 10 p.m. on South Campus. It accepts Dining and Convenience Points, credit cards, and cash.