Raleigh, N.C. — To understand how Spanglish brings traditional Puerto Rican food to the Triangle, look at its bread.
The owners of the food truck baked dozens of loaves over three or four months, testing the bread against the tastes they knew from back home in Puerto Rico. Then, each bread was tweaked and baked again--and then tweaked and baked again.
But, since the bread has to taste like what they ate growing up, owner Antonio Rodriguez said they gave it to other Puerto Ricans to try.
“(We said,) ‘Tell me. A little bit of home?’ Then you see them cry, so you know you did it right,” said Rodriguez said.
The crew slips effortlessly between speaking Spanish and explaining their Puerto Rican dishes in English as the food truck shuttles around Raleigh to hawk fare derived from the caribbean island’s recipes and traditions.
All four Spanglish team members--Rodriguez, Doel Gonzalez, Gretchen Grajales and Elizabeth Gutierrez--were raised in Puerto Rico. When they moved to North Carolina, they longed or the food they left behind. So, instead of making the trek back home, they opened the truck and work full-time jobs on the side.
Gonzalez described some of their food as traditional “holiday food,” like the arroz con gandules--rice dotted with pigeon peas and tinted red by a couple fistfuls of spices. Some of the other foods, though, are just staples of Puerto Rican cuisine.
Pork is mainstay in Puerto Rico, and luckily for Spanglish, North Carolinians likes their pork, too.
Like the Tar Heel State’s barbecue, Spanglish’s pernil is roasted low and slow. The pork is cooked down in an oven for as many as 15 hours, and when it emerges, simmering in its own juices, Rodriguez and the crew put it aside to let the meat rest for a few days before serving it warm with a side of arroz con gandules and sweet, roasted plantains.
The truck also sells a variety of empanadas, a Cuban sandwich and a vegan plantain salad.