Buu Gia Nguyen is following in the tire tracks of Los Angeles’ Kogi BBQ Truck.
Nguyen launched his own Asian-fusion food truck last August. Although he boldly named the truck Boo Yah, in person the affable chef is more introverted than the larger-than-life graphics on his 20-foot truck would suggest.
“The prepping and promotion are the essential ingredients to a successful food truck,” he says. “There is a lot of work that goes into making this happen, but I’m happiest when I’m at the grill.”
Nguyen’s signature dish — lemongrass-marinated, grilled center-loin pork chop with a side of fresh Asian slaw (called Bop Goi, $7) — is bringing pork to the people.
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“It’s an interesting intersection of tastes, because both Vietnamese and Midwesterners love their pork,” he says. “But we also grill a vegetarian ginger-teriyaki portobello mushroom and serve it with jasmine rice and our signature slaw ($8).”
Nguyen’s family was part of a wave of Vietnamese refugees who settled in the United States in the mid-1970s.
“Through it all my mother, Loan, always cooked, and we would sit down together as a family for dinner,” he says. “I bring the flavors of lime, cilantro, lemongrass, soy and fish sauces to the dishes I serve out of the truck.”
Nguyen lives with his wife, Betsy, and 2-year-old daughter Teagan in North Kansas City. He found his way back to the kitchen after closing a salon more than a year ago.
“The best feeling is when people tell me they love my food,” he says. “My daughter says, ‘My Boo Yah truck!’ I tell her she’s the Asian fusion and that maybe someday she’ll have her picture on the outside. I’ll still be here by the grill.”
▪ Boo Yah, 816-841-5122, BooYahKC.com. Sign up to receive emails regarding food truck locations.
Boo Yah Lemongrass Pork Chops
Makes 6 servings
For garlic chili dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons garlic chili sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Thai red chili peppers, diced, optional use
For pork chops:
3/4 cup oyster sauce
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup garlic chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, cut into 2-inch pieces and crushed
2 green onions, washed, trim roots and 2 inches from green tops, and slice into thin rounds
6 thick pork center-cut bone-in loin chops
To make garlic chili dipping sauce: Into a small bowl, whisk garlic chili sauce, lime juice, soy sauce and optional red chili peppers together. Pour into a resealable glass or plastic container, and place in refrigerator to allow flavors to meld.
To make pork chops: Into a large glass mixing bowl, whisk oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, chili sauce, pepper, sugar, lemongrass and onion together. Pour marinade mixture into an extra-large resealable plastic bag and add pork chops. Seal bag and make sure marinade evenly covers each chop. Lie bag flat in refrigerator and allow pork chops to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Prepare a hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill and set grate on highest setting. (To imbue a smokier flavor, add your favorite wood chips.) Place pork chops directly over hot coals. Discard marinade with lemongrass stalks. Sear meat for at least 1 minute on each side or until browned.
Move pork chops to side of grill without coals. Place lid tightly on grill and smoke meat over indirect heat for about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove lid, turn pork chops, replace cover and continue to grill over indirect heat for another 5 to 7 minutes.
Insert a meat thermometer into center of pork chop. Remove meat from grill when the internal temperature reads 155 degrees. Cut meat off bone and dip into prepared garlic chili dipping sauce, as desired, before eating.
Per serving: 315 calories (62 percent from fat), 22 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 1,145 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.