>> El Salbut Cocina Yucateca | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 11 March 2022

El Salbut Cocina Yucateca

The truck parked on Sepulveda Blvd. open for business

COVID-19 UPDATE: All business is conducted through the truck's two small windows.

📍 5822 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, San Fernando Valley

In a group of food trucks that line up in front of a small strip mall that is home to Petco and some home improvement stores, one particular lonchera has somewhat of an identity crisis. The biggest words on the side of the truck are "Tacos El Gallo" and are accompanied by social media icons, but you will not find the truck on those platforms by that name. Instead try El Gallo Yucateco for their Instagram account, but even that seems defunct since late last year.

A new sandwich board in front of the truck calls the business "El Salbut" Cocina Yucateca, and this seems to be what they are running with now, even if social media accounts are lagging behind. Since opening eight months ago, the business is figuring out how to get its legs it seems, but whatever you want to call them, order some Yucatán specialties and welcome them to the Valley.

Tacos de milanesa y cochinita pibil

The grouping of food trucks is a good destination for groups and families and also includes a Colombian arepa purveyor, a La Michoacana ice cream and sweets truck for dessert, and a TJ-style birria de res vendor for your basic friends. Amongst the list of tacos at El Salbut, you immediately notice that many of the usual suspects are absent and replaced by some options you may not see so often.

No matter which ones you settle on, the price for any taco is $2.50 and is plated with juicy limes and the truck's two salsas. As usual with comida yucateca, the resulting presentation is very colorful, thanks always in part to the vibrant purple escabeche de cebolla, pickled red onions that are made with the juice of bitter oranges.

Taco de cochinita pibil

This is used liberally on top of tacos de cochinita (above), a Yucatán specialty of shredded pork roasted with garlic, achiote, and more bitter oranges. As a guisado, this version might be considered dry, but on a taco with lime squeezed on and salsa used generously, it is just right.

On its own, cochinita pibil is never intensely spicy but really begs to be made that way through proper salsas. The truck's earthy salsa de chile de arbol is perfect for this and adds a real kick in the teeth while also adding good flavor.

Taco de milanesa

Thinly sliced tomatoes and more red onions provide the color on a Yucatán-style taco de milanesa (above), which chops up a very thin breaded cutlet of fried chicken. More generally seen on tortas, the milanesa is a worthy taco option here and best with both salsas including a nice thick trail of their salsa de aguacate.

The truck also does tacos de salpicón, adding to their list of choices rarely seen elsewhere. Unfortunately on this visit they were out of this option but it will be sampled next time for sure.

Salbutes de relleno negro

One of the biggest reasons to seek out El Salbut is for their salbutes of course, a particularly regional specialty enjoyed in Yucatán, other parts of southern México, and Belize. The tortilla used for salbutes (above and below) is a bit thicker and puffs up while being deep fried. They can be picked up just like tacos, and for the freshest experience is probably the way to go here as the tortillas are fried to order.

Besides salpicón and cochinita, do not leave the truck without trying the relleno negro, another food that goes back to way before colonization and is still beloved today. There are many things to love about eating in Mérida, but visitors would be remiss not to try cochinita pibil, sopa de lima, and relleno negro before leaving town.

Salbutes de relleno negro

This dish is made of shredded turkey and employs recado negro, a paste made from mild dried chilies. All salbutes are $3.50, and worth the dollar upgrade to enjoy the warm puffy tortilla, topped again with cebollas en escabeche and a nice thick slice of avocado as is customary.

The relleno negro is hiding a lot of juice, as you will find out when the first bite is taken and it starts dripping in your lap. Before adding salsas to the dish on a salbut or taco, try it without first to enjoy the richness. It is almost enough to start checking flights to Mérida.


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