Featured / PLACES

Salvadoran Flavour: Guanaco Food Truck In Vancouver

Charlotte Kinzie || Vancouver, BC
Photos by Zea Photography

Long weekend road trips are awesome. And what better way to do it than with a friend (armed with a new camera) and a destination that will result in the acquisition of Pupusas.

If you’re anything like me, you may not know what a Pupusa is. About 10 years ago when Zea asked us over for “Pupusas” we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Zea’s family is from El Salvador and her father has been making Pupusas for years, and she assured me they were tasty.

The Pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish. It’s basically two thick corn tortillas and is filled with a super-secret cheese mixture, re-fried beans and sometimes pork or chicken. Naturally, it’s handmade and they are quite a treat. Zea has tried a few places that have popped up in Canada and has yet to find one that wowed her (she wouldn’t tell me what the secret cheese was either – but that’s another article).

The road trip for these Salvadoran treats was epic. Zea spent ten hours on a bus from Calgary and then we drove another five from Kamloops to Vancouver to seek out the new Guanaco Food truck. It was all blue skies and hot summer on the drive down the Coquihalla, and we arrived only about 20 minutes late in spite of Vancouver traffic.

The Guanaco truck is easy to spot. If you watch Supernatural you’ve already had a great view of the truck in Season 7′s episode “Party On Garth”, in which intrepid demon hunter Garth (D.J. Qualls) eats at Guanaco.

The truck is certainly eye-catching. Even in the bustle of downtown Vancouver it stands out and we found it quickly.

Guanaco at Seymour and W Georgia St. in Vancouver || ©ZeaPhotography

We were welcomed by Ana Manzano, the cook behind all the delicious dishes and new employee, Luis Flores.  Ana has a great smile and was busy preparing food the entire time we were around the truck.  This place seems like a real labour of love.  In fact, when I asked proprietor José Manzano how traditional it was he said, “It’s my mom and my sister.”  Really? It’s the whole family.  José has been known to get behind the counter and his wife, Veronika, is handling the media and publicity.

One of the first things that is clear is that the Guanaco team is well-connected in terms of social media.  I asked José about their online presence.  ”That’s huge.  For a mobile food truck, twitter and Facebook, you have to have it,” said Manzano.  ”My wife is the one in charge of all the social media so she answers all the questions and interacts with customers.  It’s a better way to interact with customers. You know, we’re mobile, right? People ask a lot of questions like where we are – ’cause we move around quite a bit.”

Ana and new employee, Luis welcome customers to the Guanaco Food truck || ©ZeaPhotography

There was a line up when we arrived at the truck and the staff were moving quickly. It looked like they were fairly busy.  I asked José how things were going.  ”Because of the type of food, people are not used to it,” Manzano said.  ”It’s not, like, any common food like sushi.  It’s something that people don’t know much about.  But I just have to give it time.”

Zea and I didn’t need time! We had a look at the menu and it seemed to contain all of Zea’s favorites. Because the truck had to move on shortly (those downtown Vancouver rules are crazy strict), we ordered quickly and sat down to watch.

Zea suggested we try Queso y Frijoles which is a Pupusa that contains a mixture of cheeses and re-fried black beans. The Pupusas all come with Yuca Frita which are fried cassava root.  We only had to wait about five minutes and we were handed containers with our food.  It was a generous portion and Zea said the Pupusas were huge.  I got some quick lessons from Zea: tear the Pupusa apart with your fingers and dip it into the light tomato sauce that was provided.

The Pupusas were extremely flavourful; the combination of cheeses and the beans was perfect.  I was sold on them before Zea even proclaimed them “awesome”.  The Yuca Frita were a healthy size and cooked to perfection.  I’ve never had cassava before and loved it.  There was a side of tomato sauce and a side of Curtido (a kind of pickled coleslaw).

Tamarindo & Horchata drinks // Queso y frijoles with yuca frita || ©ZeaPhotography

We also tried a couple of drinks called Horchata and Tamarindo.  The Tamarindo was my favorite – sweet, and yet a bit tangy, quite unlike any juice I’ve tasted before.  The Horchata is made from morro seeds and mixed with ground cocoa, cinnamon, and other ingredients.  The first taste seems a bit like an iced coffee drink but it gives way to a flavour that is much more simple.  There’s an underlying sweetness to the Horchata.

And if you have trouble with gluten? Good news, says Manzano, “Everything on the menu is traditional.  It’s all gluten-free – we don’t use any flour it’s all corn-based.”

And back to Supernatural.  José Manzano, the truck’s Proprietor, is a camera assistant on the Vancouver filmed WB show.  José took some time from his lunch break on the set of Supernatural to speak to us about Guanaco.  It turns out there’s a long-standing connection between Supernatural and Guanaco.

José Manzano, camera assistant on “Supernatural” || ©ZeaPhotgraphy

During the first season, José’s mom used to make Pupusas and bring them to set.  The cast and crew loved the food and they’ve been very supportive.  Not only has the truck been on set to cater to the crew and also been featured in an episode, Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester), his wife Genevieve  and their new baby, Thomas, ventured out to the Vancouver Food Truck Festival to show their support.

So, Supernatural fans and foodies in Vancouver – get out there, find the truck, and have a Pupusa.  You will not regret it.  Zea and I certainly didn’t regret 10 hours in the car for a meal.  By the way, we took a cooler with us and brought a meal home for my husband.  Reheated it was pretty damn tasty.

One of the best things about “Guanaco” – Ana’s smile! || ©ZeaPhotography

And for those who asked…

Guanaco! || ©ZeaPhotography

You can find Guanaco food truck several ways:

Stop by their new location: Seymour & Robson St from 11am – 3pm.

Tweet them at @guanacotruck

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/guanacotruck

Download the iphone app called “Vancouver Street Food”

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