Food Truck Frenzy: Korean Mama Express

Image via Patrick Valliancourt
Image via Patrick Valliancourt

Where fusion meets traditional Korean cuisine in downtown Vancouver

By Patrick Vaillancourt, Contributor

The summer is officially here and the Vancouver food trucks are gearing up for what promises to be a busy season of festivals and fairs across the downtown core. The variety of culinary options available in the city’s food trucks may be daunting at first, ranging from the traditional hotdog stand to ethnic food to-go. It’s often difficult to find one that meets every bit of consumer criteria, which include friendly and timely service, affordability, variety, and quality, but Korean Mama Express offers all of these and more, including meal options for those trying to keep a healthy lifestyle.

Conveniently located at the Vancouver transit hub of Granville and West Georgia Street (in front of the Canada Line entrance to Granville SkyTrain station), Korean Mama Express has been serving up traditional Korean rice bowls, burgers, and hot dogs with a Korean twist for over two years. Open Monday to Saturday starting at 11 a.m., Korean Mama Express can help you out with lunch, dinner, or an appetizing mid-afternoon snack.

The “Korean Mama”, proprietor Young Sook Lee, who operates the food truck with help from her younger sister, is proud to offer healthy, on-the-go food options from her homeland.

“We offer Korean foods such as ‘bulgogi’ (marinated BBQ beef in rice bowl) and ‘bibimbap’ (steamed vegetable rice bowl) alongside comfort food like burgers and hot dogs with a unique Korean twist,” said the 58-year-old Lee. “We are proud of Korean food and want to share it with people in Vancouver.”

Lee’s desire to create awareness of Korean food in Vancouver is one of her genuine goals, and this diplomat of deliciousness does not disappoint.

At first glance, Korean Mama Express’ menu may look overly simplistic, but the interchangeable ingredients between the dishes make it appealing for a wide-range of dietary preferences. For instance, the bowls come with either steamed white rice or pan fried noodles as well as a choice between BBQ beef, chicken, or prawns. In order to not overwhelm customers with the spiciness inherent with Korean cuisine, Korean Mama Express takes note of a customer’s tolerance for the red pepper paste, offering mild, medium, or spicy dishes.

The bibimbap, which includes ground beef, carrots, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and a fried egg on a bed of steamed rice is truly a must-have experience for anyone looking for a change of pace. At $8.98, the bibimbap is an affordable way to get a taste of a traditional dish originating in the Korean countryside. Diving into a steaming bowl of the bibimbap may just compel you to go back for seconds.

A journey into Korean cuisine would not be complete without a taste of the country’s trademark food: kimchi. Korean Mama Express’ signature kimchi dog, which is kimchi, onions and freshly-grated cheddar cheese sprinkled on a 100 per cent real beef sausage held together by a French hotdog bun, puts some of the city’s more seasoned hotdog vendors to shame. At $6.98, the kimchi dog is certainly worth the upscale price.

Drink options at Korean Mama Express were not particularly noteworthy. They offer a number of carbonated beverages, as well as bottled water and juices ranging from $1.50 to $2.50.

The owner emphasized that the customer experience is a key driver of their business’ success. In addition to providing healthy, delectable food at an affordable price, everyone who stops by Korean Mama Express can expect to be served with speed, accuracy, and a smile.

The food cart vendors, in particular those like Korean Mama Express who specialize in ethnic dishes, are just one shining example of the diversity present in downtown Vancouver. It’s summer in Vancouver, which means street parties, exposed beach bodies, and great street food. A kimchi dog from Korean Mama Express is a good start to another memorable summer and a great way for those looking to expand their horizons.

Rating: 4/5