Jason Rotairo (above left) and Ed Chui (above right) are the Adobo Hobo, a two-man (and friends) operation serving delicious Filipino food to hungry folks all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Their success - due as much to their fantastic food as their relaxed attitude and sense of humor - is a good example of the rising popularity of street food (a staple of most countries) in many American cities.
I first ran into Jason and Ed at Oakland's Eat Real in 2009; this Jack London Square event was one of the most successful street food festivals ever produced, far superior to the similar event held in San Francisco. I look forward to trying their adobo again at Eat Real 2010, coming up at the end of August.
Qu3stions: Where do you get your recipes? Are they family hand-me-downs, the result of rigorous testing, or did you just try something from a cookbook? Have you had to adjust them for the restrictions of street food cooking/serving?
Jason Rotairo: I've gotten all my Filipino recipes from my mother. Now, she doesn't know how to cook everything, but everything she cooks is pretty much the best. I never noticed how great her cooking was because I grew up with it, but after trying Filipino food from restaurants and other households, I'd say Mom-Dukes got it on lock.
As far as adjustments, the only thing I've had to was figure out measurements. I'm sure most moms teach without measuring and rather by eyeballing everything. I figured if I was going to be making large quantities of food on a regular basis, I might as well keep things consistent.
3Q: Would you like to offer any other Filipino dishes from your cart/stall? Are there particular recipes or styles of cooking in the Philippines that lend themselves to street food (and is there a big street food culture in the Philippines)?
JR: We occasionally serve other dishes on our outings like sisig tacos as well as adobo tacos. There are other dishes I will be putting out, but everyones gonna have to wait for those.
There is a huge street food culture in the Philippines. I've been there 5 times and have been a huge fan of the street eats since first trying them back in 1990. I used to always get the BBQ pork on the skewers. Street food is very common there so it's not as big of a deal as it is here in San Francisco. A lot of Filipinos who pass by get surprised when they see the Adobo Hobo doing the streetfood thing. They say it's like back home.
3Q:How did you get into this business, and how did you end up working together? Have you had any cooking-related disagreements, and if so how did you reconcile them?
JR:Things got started late July of last year. My roommate, Ed, and his girlfriend, Amy, had just got home from hunting down the creme brulee cart and wanted to give it a shot. I'm the cook of the house so they really wanted me to be the guy behind the food. I was low on funds so I was open to the idea. A week later, we hit the streets, and have been doing it since. Now it's just Ed and I working on this thing.
We haven't really came across cooking disagreements probably because we focus on Filipino foods and he's Chinese. Ed hasn't really had too much experience with Filipino food in the past, so he's not too familiar with different dishes. Both of us love to eat and appreciate good food, so as the food I'm cooking is good, there isn't really much of a problem.
Creative Commons-licensed photography by Gary Soup