THERE WAS A TIME when the familiar jingle of what locals colloquially called ‘bread vans’ in the many local dialects was a daily occurrence. Roti van, loti chia; whatever they went by, those vans have all but disappeared, becoming synonymous with the halcyon days of a youth spent waiting for that familiar sound signaling their arrival. But there are those who want to relive those memories.
Food truck operators selling everything from sandwiches layered with cheese and meats to desserts like ais kacang have taken their place, serving fresh meals with a modern twist. To NOMS on Street co-owner Kelvin Chong, the essence of the bread vans of old lives on in the food trucks of today – a spiritual successor, of sorts.
“I wanted to do something that would add a sort of twist to the beloved bread vans of yesteryear,” Chong explained.
“It also shows how food and beverage operators are constantly coming up with unique ways to make the street food that the city is renowned for more accessible.”
Chong isn’t alone. Along with a fleet of other equally passionate food truck operators, the group is ushering in a new era of mobile food vendors, motivated by their love of street food.
“What I want to do is create something new with my cooking, and food trucks are an excellent platform to bring the food to the people,” says Sushi Chef on Wheels operator Joseph Gu. A former sous chef, Gu now dedicates his time to his food truck business in hopes that other young entrepreneurs will do the same.
After all, healthy competition is good for everyone, opines Ooi See Bee, who runs the Cloud-99 Ice Cream truck. “We made the transition from café to truck only recently, and it’s been great so far,” she said.
“I believe that food trucks help boost the local economy, which in turn helps generate healthy business for everyone.”
For Lina Liew of Lock Ann Café 2, it’s a way of continuing a family heritage. “I am the third generation proprietor of Lock Ann; my grandfather started it in 1952. What better way for us to continue the family business in these modern times than by hopping on board a food truck?” Liew enthused.
The bread vans of the past may be gone, but their wish of bringing delicious, feel-good food to the people of Kuching is in safe hands.
Russell Ting is an editor by profession, but prefers the art of putting ink to paper whenever the situation allows it. Having spent all his life in Kuching, he treasures the escapism of books, travel and music. He is also an avid amateur photographer and a collector of vintage cameras and records.