Naomi Subat, Founder/cook, Juan More Taco
If it doesn’t make you laugh or cry, it’s probably not worth the effort ...
When Newcastle-raised, Brisbane-based nurse Naomi Subat first laid eyes on a weathered old doughnut van from Melbourne, she knew immediately it was ‘the one’. She’d spent countless months trawling online classifieds – and was already halfway through purchasing a retired fire truck from Tasmania – but she had no doubt the four-wheeled beauty was the one to bring her dream to life. The refitting process may have been far more intense than she had imagined, but in the end the 18 months of long nights and anxious days were worth it. Brisbane’s newest food bus hit the bitumen this month, pumping out Mexican street food and horchata to eager patrons. Ahead of an appearance at Woolloongabba today, Coorparoo this Friday and Wynnum on Saturday, Naomi took a well-deserved break to share her passions and plans with The Weekend Edition.
What’s the formula for a perfect taco?
A freshly grilled soft corn tortilla, heaped full of delectable meat, topped with the perfect salsa, coriander and a squeeze of lime – and of course, all prepared from scratch and with love!
What inspired Juan More Taco?
I guess it all started with a corn chip! I know that sounds corny but debating with friends about what was ‘real Mexican food’ sparked an obsession with Mexican eats and spurred a desire to delve into the rich and complex story of Mexican cuisine.
How have locals responded to your Mexican tacos and drinks in the first few weeks of operation?
The response has been overwhelming – something I was very unprepared for. It’s been a really long journey for us and we were so excited the first night we headed out for dinner when people who had been following us on Facebook came out to sample the tacos!
Why did you opt for a mobile truck, rather than a bricks-and-mortar venue?
A love of street food and eating on the street combined with the flexibility and freedom that a mobile food truck offers really appealed to me. Internationally, street food is found on every corner, whether it be a small food vendor or stall in Southeast Asia or a food truck in the States. I wanted to try to bring a little of this simple concept of eating to Brisbane.
What do you predict for the local food truck scene?
The food truck culture has really taken off and has been a huge success in many other states around Australia. It would be incredible to see more food trucks in Brisbane and I definitely think that Brisbane is ready for that to happen.
What has been the biggest challenge – and the greatest reward – so far?
The whole journey has been a challenge, which has taught me many lessons. One of the greatest hurdles has been trying to source authentic Mexican ingredients to capture traditional flavours. This has improved over the past couple of years as more and more people are embracing traditional Mexican cuisine. The greatest reward so far has definitely been finally getting out there and the really positive response we’ve received!
What can you tell us about the trials of transforming an old doughnut van into a stunner of a taco truck?
The refit of the bus has certainly been a labour of love. It took much longer than anticipated and anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It was an immense task finding the quintessential vehicle – one that complemented my admiration for all things vintage. There have been many sleepless nights, Googling to distraction, sourcing the right people to do the job and doing it ‘juance’ and doing it right.
Where can Brisbane locals find Juan More Taco?
Hopefully not broken down and blocking traffic! No seriously, mainly around the streets of Brisbane for both lunch and dinner – we’ll be rolling out new locations in the coming weeks. The best way to find us will be through Twitter, Facebook or the website.
We did a little Facebook stalking and saw that you embarked on a taco-tasting tour of Mexico last year …
We headed to Mexico mid last year in pursuit of the perfect taco. We did a couple of food tours in Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta, which is an absolute must-do for anyone heading to Mexico. Most of our time was spent sampling tacos, cooking, wandering through markets and drinking cerveza by the pool.
What was the culinary highlight of the trip?
When we headed into the heart of Mexico City to Cantina La Mascota – an authentic Mexican cantina. La Mascota serves Mexican eats on the house and as long as you’re drinking they’ll keep the food coming. There was a choice of seven menu options (the menu was all in Spanish) and the food was incredible – simple home-style dishes from across Mexico. The atmosphere was lively with music and chatter, wait staff who spoke only Spanish and much tequila washed down with sangrita and lime. An evening that we can barely remember but will never forget!
What’s the biggest misconception about Mexican cuisine?
That it’s really spicy. It’s true that you’ll nearly never find a Mexican recipe that doesn’t contain chillies or peppers, but many are quite mild and heat seekers can add their choice of spicy salsas.
Can you share one cooking tip for readers who are trying to whip up a Mexican feast at home?
Don’t be overwhelmed; just have a go! Although Mexican food can appear quite simple, some recipes for moles can have up to 50 ingredients and can take days to prepare. Start small, fall in love with the flavours and, before you know it, you’ll be cooking Mexican for your next fiesta.
What five things complete your week?
Coffee on the deck with my iPad, trips to the dog park, plenty of laughs, cerveza and a vintage find.
When was the last time something took your breath away?
When I drove the bus, Juan, for the first time … and it wasn’t in a good way. I’d just gotten my heavy vehicle licence and was sitting behind the wheel of Juan with my sister in the passenger seat. I literally didn’t speak until we’d reached our destination, we got out, high-fived, and then I started breathing again.
What tunes go best with a Mexican feast?
Mariachi, of course!
How do you define ‘success’?
Success is the fruition of all your blood, sweat and beers! If it doesn’t make you laugh or cry, it’s probably not worth the effort.
What are your words of wisdom?
‘Some days you’re the pigeon and other days you’re the statue …’
Only a local would know that … Coorparoo RSL has great beer and $5 pints during happy hour!
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … Grab a coffee from Uncle Joe’s Coffee House in Coorparoo and head to the dog park.
Relax … A movie at Gold Class.
Dine … Anywhere that has a share plate philosophy.
Indulge … Cocktails at Mr and Mrs G Riverbar, Brisbane City.
Shop … Dan Murphy’s!
Catch up … Anywhere with family and friends.
Be inspired … I’m in a constant state of inspiration!