On Saturday afternoon, while 26 of Los Angeles' nouveau food trucks converged at the T Lofts in West L.A. for a Haiti benefit, husband-and-wife duo Regine and Chris Patterson were putting the final touches on their Jamaican-American fusion truck, Reggae Chicken, which is scheduled to roll out today. (Twitter: @reggaejerkchick)
"Most Jamaican-American restaurants in Los Angeles are in the 'hood, in Crenshaw," Regine says. "I want to bring Jamaican food to the rest of L.A."
For now, they're keeping Reggae Chicken's menu extremely small. Their focus will be jerk chicken and jerk pork, which can be ordered as a Little Jerk ($4.50) or a Big Jerk ($7). Both are served in a bowl atop your choice of sweet potato fries, regular fries or a helping of "rice and peas" (brown rice and pinto beans). They'll also offer Jamaican beef patties tucked inside pockets of dough ($2). Reggae Chicken will reach a deeper into Jamaica's cookbook for rotating weekly specials like salt fish (salted cod that's sautéed and commonly served with white yams, flour dumplings and perhaps a boiled green banana) and brown stew.
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Born and raised in L.A., Regine, whose mother runs a small hotel in Trelawny, Jamaica (about 20 miles east of Montego Bay), has little experience in the food service industry. Chris, however, used to run a pizza restaurant and is currently a financial analyst at Nestle.
The cooking will be done by chef Anthony Robinson, a Jamaican native and recent L.A. transplant (via England), who earned his chops making jerk chicken that he sold to clubgoers on the streets of London. The recipe he's making on the truck was developed by the Pattersons and based on the kind of food Regine had eaten at the family table her whole life.
As prepared in the traditional fashion, the raw chicken is rubbed with lime juice, "jerked" (palpated by hand or with forks), rubbed with a sauce of garlic, salt, Scotch bonnet peppers and other spices, marinaded and grilled. "Most of the Jamaican restaurants in L.A. make theirs in an oven," Regine says. "We're doing it on a grill."
Notoriously spicy, the jerk chicken and pork from Reggae Chicken has been toned down to appeal to a broader range of palates. "We used less. Less black pepper, less Scotch bonnet peppers. Less of everything," Regine says. It will also come with your choice of three sauces: a hot sauce, a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce, and a third, yet to be determined sauce. And, as its name implies, Reggae Chicken will definitely blast reggae on the truck.