Tony Woolcott and Mai Tran Photo by Jessica Ronky Haddad
Asian food trucks featuring bánh mì and pho are so ubiquitous in Northern Virginia that when Hungry Turtle co-owner Mai Tran told her family there of plans to start a Richmond-based truck, they questioned her wisdom, not realizing she would be blazing a trail here.
Tran and co-owner Tony Woolcott first took The Hungry Turtle on the road in August 2013, after acquiring their authentic recipes from Tran's Vietnamese mother, Maria, who served as taster and quality-control expert. "It all had to be to Mai's mom's taste," Woolcott says.
I tried a Vietnamese pork bánh mì, which at $6, and about 16 inches long, is a tremendous bargain. It featured a generous portion of typical Asian restaurant pink-edged pork topped with crunchy, tangy radishes, carrots and cukes. A sprinkling of cilantro and slather of spicy aïoli made for a satisfying sandwich that was more than enough to share with a co-worker.
I also tried the 16-ounce pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with beef broth, meatballs and eye round steak ($5). The Hungry Turtle's beef broth was a bit salty, and lacked the depth and intriguing star-anise flavor that are hallmarks of the best pho, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I'll be keeping my eye on thehungryturtle.com to see when the truck is in the neighborhood again.