Kitchens on wheels are a time-honoured tradition in Canada, and in towns and cities from coast to coast, food trucks are serving up fresh takes on comfort-food favourites. Our inspired recipes will help you recreate a few of the most popular dishes, with plenty of fun twists. Follow our tips on packing them to go, and you’ll be able to enjoy your own meals on wheels, at the office, at the park or in your backyard.
Originally from Quebec, poutine is a blowout feast of fries topped with cheese curds and slathered with gravy. You can try the classic version or all kinds of meat-topped varieties from Smoke’s Poutinerie’s food truck in Toronto. In Winnipeg, The Poutine King sells 15 varieties, all made with Manitoba-grown potatoes and Montreal cheese curds.
Try it at home: Make a poutine variation with sweet potato oven fries tossed with chopped rosemary leaves. Top with grated hard goat cheese and cooked chicken, then pour on some chicken gravy to melt the cheese.
View recipe: Chicken & Goat Cheese Sweet Potato Poutine
Mix it up: Switch the sweet potato fries for crispy potato wedges or use shredded mozzarella instead of goat cheese.
Get packing: Use cardboard takeout boxes to transport your poutine if you’re not going far. Packing in the morning for lunch? Put the hot fries in a pre-warmed wide-necked Thermos and store the cheese and gravy separately, and then assemble it just before you eat. Heat the gravy in a microwave first or transport it in a separate Thermos flask.
The humble grilled cheese gets a gourmet makeover at trucks such as P.A. & Gargantua Grilled Cheese in Montreal and Gorilla Cheese in Hamilton. P.A. & Gargantua has a whole section of its menu devoted to bacon, while Gorilla Cheese does savoury options as well as a special dessert selection, using ingredients such as mascarpone cheese, chocolate hazelnut spread and cinnamon raisin bread.
Try it at home: On white sourdough bread, top smoked cheddar with sautéed onions, mushrooms and thyme. Slather butter on the outside of the slices before browning in a skillet.
View recipe: Mushroom & Cheddar Grilled Cheese
Mix it up: Switch out the sourdough for your favourite whole-grain bread. For a vegan version, use non-dairy cheese instead of cheddar and brush the bread with olive oil instead of spreading with butter.
Get packing: Wrap your gourmet grilled cheese like a parcel in waxed paper, securing it closed with baker’s twine, string or a large rubber band.
Mac and cheese
Mac and cheese has a special place in Canadian hearts as the ultimate comfort food. At Reel Mac and Cheese in Calgary, the options are named after (and inspired by) movies, such as the Some Like It Hot, made with banana peppers and hot pepper flakes. At Hush Puppy Po’Boys in Charlottetown, you can feast on the hybrid snack of a mac-and-cheese po’boy.
Try it at home: Customize packaged macaroni and white cheddar by preparing it according to the package instructions, and then transferring it to a casserole dish and topping with shredded Swiss cheese, panko breadcrumbs, chopped green onions and cooked bacon pieces. Broil for a few minutes, until a bubbling golden crust forms.
View recipe: Crispy Bacon Macaroni & Cheese
Mix it up: Use a jalapeño cheddar instead, for fierier flavour, and add sautéed sweet red peppers to the gratin crust. Or use gluten-free mac and cheese and gluten-free breadcrumbs to cater to a wheat-free diet.
Get packing: If you’re taking this dish to work, put the cooled mac and cheese in an aluminum foil tray, then top with the raw crust ingredients before securing the lid. Bake in a toaster oven with the lid off at lunchtime. No toaster oven? Pack it piping hot, pre-baked crust and all, into a wide-necked Thermos flask.
Pulled pork sandwich
What do Hank Daddy’s Barbecue in Maple, Ont., and Smoking Pig in Quispamsis, N.B., have in common? They both do a mean pulled pork sandwich. Hank Daddy’s does all kinds of things with pulled pork, in fact, from piling it onto cowboy fries to making it the star ingredient of a parfait. At Smoking Pig, you can savour the juicy meat in a sweet-potato bun.
Try it at home: Make pulled pork by cooking boneless pork shoulder with barbecue sauce in the slow cooker, and then serve it in slider buns with coleslaw on the side.
View recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders
Mix it up: Instead of sliders, make lettuce wraps. Omit the slider buns and use cabbage, Boston lettuce or iceberg lettuce for the wrap and switch the coleslaw for sliced dill pickle.
Get packing: Let the pulled pork cool completely before packaging it to go so it doesn’t make the buns soggy. Wrap in aluminum foil, and tear back the foil a bit at a time while you eat to keep the sandwich together as you hold it. Or, if you prefer to eat your sandwich warm, pack the pork in a Thermos or insulated bag and the buns and slaw in separate containers, and then assemble at your destination.
What sweeter way to end lunch than by tucking into food truck–inspired crêpes? At trucks such as La Bohème Crêperie in Vancouver, Crêperie Mobile in Halifax and Crêpe Bistro in Vernon, B.C., the gourmet fillings range from brandy and plum to cranberry-apple compote.
Try it at home: Slather each crêpe with caramel sauce, and then cover half with a layer of banana slices and a sprinkling of broken pecans. Fold crépe in half, and then fold again to make a triangle-shaped quarter.
View recipe: Banana, Caramel & Pecan Crêpes
Mix it up: Make savoury crêpes with your favourite fillings, such as chopped ham and grated Swiss cheese or sautéed mushrooms and spinach.
Get packing: Wrap each crêpe loosely in a cocktail napkin so it will be easy to hold while eating, and stack them in a portable sandwich box.