Inspiration takes many forms. But for the husband and wife team of Wei and Jessica Yang, Quincy-based owners (who originally hail from the south of China) of the new food truck Riceburg, the inspiration for opening their first culinary venture came as much from necessity as it did from watching the 2014 Jon Favreau culinary vehicle, Chef.
“We initially tried to open a cafe, but the costs associated with opening a cafe is really high, and then we saw Chef, and [thought] a food truck is a great idea,” says Jessica outside the truck’s location at the corner of Stuart and Trinity Place in the Back Bay. “They have lower startup costs, and once we had the idea [and] started to think about the menu, I started looking for the trucks on eBay.” The Yangs finally found a former french fry food truck on the market in Wisconsin this past December, flew out there, and drove back to Boston in it after purchasing it. The truck officially rolled out for the first time in early July.
Once they renovated the truck and got it up to code—despite losing a former third partner in the venture due to family issues—the hurdles of the past paved the way for their vision to come to life. That vision, says Jessica, was always centered around introducing something brand new into the already pleasantly congested Boston food truck scene.
If you’re still wondering what it is they serve, it’s basically the love child of Asian rice plates and hamburgers. To ensure freshness, they bring the raw meat on truck and cook it on-site along with the “buns” that are made with high quality Japanese sticky rice, which they tweak with some added starch and vinegar to maintain its form when being pressed into buns and grilled (helps it not dissolve into a giant mess all over your face while walking). They use a Korean BBQ sauce to marinate their shaved beef with added flavors of soy and honey for their own spin, and in the end Jessica says it’s like “a bibimbap sandwich.”
“Everyone loves rice plates, and everyone loves hamburgers because they’re convenient, and it’s a very to-go food suitable for street food,” says Jessica. “Rice plates are delicious and everything, you can’t really hold it on the subway or something. So we wanted to combine the convenience of a hamburger and the deliciousness of an Asian rice plate.”
Jessica says they missed the deadline for SOWA for this season, but they’ll be looking to join the rash of other food trucks there next season, and besides their regular street schedule they will be appearing at some of the festivals slated for the Food Truck Festivals of America. For now, the Wangs say the challenge is first to get people interested in what they’re selling, which Jessica admits has been a challenge, given the novelty of their product.
“I thought people would be receptive to our concept, but it turns out a lot of people don’t know what we’re selling,” says Jessica. That’s not guessing, either, as the day I was on the street with them I heard at least two people glance at the truck while walking by and wonder aloud what the truck was all about. But Jessica says once people actually give the food a try, they’re quick to win over skeptics.
Her husband Wei seconds the thought: “When you see [customer’s] faces after trying it for the first time, they smile; it’s good food. That makes me very happy—that’s what I like, [and] that’s the reason we tried to do something different.”
RICEBURG FOOD TRUCK. ON STREETS NOW. FOLLOW THEM ON TWITTER FOR SCHEDULE AND LOCATIONS AT TWITTER.COM/RICEBURG1
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.