Street Eatin'

Truck Stop: Reis Llaneza of the Box

The chef of the Asian fusion wagon says try the pork belly hum bao and chicken karaage.

By Christopher Werner January 3, 2012

Reis Llaneza of The Box with his wife Joanna. They just had a baby girl, Khloe.

In Truck Stop, we meet the folks at the wheel of Seattle’s food trucks.

Reis Llaneza of The Box was raised on the type of diet culture-deprived Midwesterners like myself could only dream of as a kid. “The centerpiece at every family get together was a table covered with foods like Japanese sushi, Chinese chow mein, Korean kimchi, and Hawaiian kalua pork,” recalls the Big Island native.

After attending culinary school and making the rounds at restaurants in Hawaii, Llaneza headed to the lower 48 with then-fiance Joanna in 2005. He would clock in at restaurants on the Eastside but it was while attending business classes that Llaneza had his eureka moment: rather than open his own place as planned, he’d showcase his flair for Asian fusion via four wheels. “I remember telling a friend of mine, ‘I don’t need a fancy place, just give me a box to cook and serve food.’ That was when the idea of opening a food truck hit me.”

Here, Llaneza pulls over for a few questions.

What item sells out first? We usually sell out of the pork belly hum bao: pork belly braised in the French tradition using Asian spices to highlight the richness of the meat. It is served on a Chinese steamed bun with American style coleslaw seasoned with sweet chili sauce found in Vietnamese cuisine.

What else should I try? Definitely the chicken karaage. Karaage is the Japanese style of deep frying, which produces a lighter, crispier texture—more like tempura than Southern style fried chicken. It is tossed in a homemade Asian-influenced sauce and served with steamed rice and a side of salad. It’s a delicious combination of sweet and savory and the salad offers a nice coolness to the hot chicken and rice.

Best part of the city relaxing street food regulations: It allows people to be more adventurous without having to spend a lot of cash.

If you could park anywhere in the city, where would it be? Somewhere near a park so families could come together and share a meal. Food has always been a way to connect with people, and I want my food to be enjoyed much like I remember enjoying meals with my family and friends.

Where do your recipes come from? Imagining what flavors would complement each other and what techniques would maximize the ingredients. I draw on my memories of comfort food and build from there.

What item will you never reveal the recipe for? I have no secret recipe, instead I use the technique my grandmother used: a little of this, a little of that until it’s perfect.

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