Asian night markets are popular as ever these days. Weekend festivals like 626 Night Market, Monterey Park Night Market, and K-Town Night Market are providing Angelenos with a glimpse into the sprawling after-sunset culture found in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan, where one can find delicious and low-cost street food vendors packed into bustling evening bazaars.
But even with all these events, there isn’t much in the way of nightly Asian street vendors in the San Gabriel, which boasts dozens of Hong Kong-style cafés and Taiwanese snack shops.
Chef Edward Hsu is aiming to change that with his month-old street cart, Kembo Foods, which parks outside the Ralph’s Supermarket just north of the corner Atlantic Boulevard and Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park. “When you see late night food trucks in the SGV, it’s mostly tacos tucks,” says Hsu. “I wanted to offer my own version of what you’ll find in Taiwan.”
Paramount on the menu are grilled chicken, beef, and pork skewers (five for $5) heavily glazed with a soy sauce, honey, and spices, as well as stubby, sweet sausages that have been scored with a knife and charred on the grill. Most customers order them in large quantities, stuffed into paper envelopes and with their bamboo sticks jutting upward.
You’ll also find a selection of fried snacks, like crunchy deep-fried turnip cakes tossed in sugar, salt, and fried basil, fried tofu (no stinky version just yet), and the ever-popular Taiwanese fried chicken steak, which is chopped up and brushed with a sweet-salty sauce. The selection has been somewhat basic, but Hsu hopes to expand his menu to offer more adventurous items.
Hsu says that foot traffic has been very good so far, though many local residents have been surprised, even skeptical, about seeing a food truck in the area—despite the fact that Kembo Foods is fully certified and permitted by the city.
For now, Hsu is hoping that popularity of night markets among the SGV’s younger generation can spread to the street, providing an opportunity for more stands like Kembo to thrive and grow in this densely-packed community.
During my visit, an older Latino couple walked past Kembo while walking home from a bar and were intrigued by the sizzling skewers on the grill. They usually opt for their local taco truck on the drive home but, according to them, these looked pretty tasty, too.
Find Kembo Foods Tuesday through Sunday at 330 N. Atlantic Ave., opening from 6:30 to 11 p.m. on weekdays, and until midnight on weekends.