Green Papaya Thai Wagon
Address and hours – Varies; check their Street Food app page
This mobile branch of local Thai food chain Green Papaya seems to set up primarily at festivals and events rather than a regular schedule, and it was on such an occasion when I caught up with it at last year’s Tulip Festival set up at Commissioners Park.
While I had originally been targeting one of the other vendors-on-wheels, the cool, grey weather meant that not everyone had bothered opening, despite their posted hours on the Street Food App (grrrr…). Nonetheless, I had only tried Green Papaya at Poutine Fest, so I took the opportunity to give their regular menu a shot.
The size of their menu is about par for the course for most trucks that aren’t a generic chip wagon – a few each of apps, mains, and dessert and drink options. There are familiar faces like spring rolls, dumplings, green curry and of course, pad Thai. I wanted to try something a bit different, so I went with their chili and basil beef. My sister, who met up with me for lunch, went with the pad Thai and order of their chicken dumplings to share.
Being the quiet day that it was, it seemed that they were possibly understaffed, as our food came out a bit staggered, but with not too long of a wait in between. We sauntered over to a nearby picnic table and dug in to heat ourselves up a bit with the hot food.
My chili and basil beef was the Thai equivalent of a North American chili, with the meat in a cup, and rice on the side. A small side salad of cabbage and a carrot flower was there for a little texture and visual flair. The flavour of the beef was good, with the slight funk of the basil and a moderate level of heat from the Thai peppers. I found the meat to be a tad overcooked; this is a common pitfall for many dishes that get made at an outside kitchen and are then kept warm or reheated on site. The rice wasn’t noteworthy, other than being there to sop up the tasty juices of the meat when you spooned it on.
The dumplings were OK; my sister was more disappointed than me, although I may have just been hungrier. Her pad Thai was of the odd Ottawa variety that has a tomatoey-red tinge, and a sweeter flavour than what I’m used to. Granted, my experience with pad Thai is entirely based on the restaurants in Halifax, so maybe they’re just doing it wrong there. But that’s not what my taste buds tell me!
All told, the meal was underwhelming, especially when my plain and simple cup of beef and rice was $12. There are a couple items that I would still like to try – their papaya salad, and deep fried banana balls – but it would likely only be as an afterthought at some event rather than specific destination meal.