Walk along Wakefield Street and Hindmarsh Square now and only an occasional food truck, conspicuously alone, can be glimpsed, often with no patrons. A solitary existence. The now desertified fringe of the culinary landscape.
Food trucks are the mayflies of the culinary world, their lifespan limited. An unpopular truck? Shunned with its operators consigned to the forgotten depths of obscurity. Too popular and a truck quickly vanishes to be replaced by a restaurant or cafe.
In some cases the food trucks reappear and remain circulating despite the permanence of their bistro counterparts, to be found at various events, including the Fork on the Road and the Food Truck Movement. I've found this phenomenon both joyous and sad. Almost like seeing your favourite action star of the 80s don fatigues and appear as part of an ensemble cast in an action movie series teetering into the territory of maudlin self-parody.
Phat Buddha now serves delectable Cambodian rolls at a permanent location but also regularly participates with its food truck at events.
I first sampled Phat Buddha rolls at Hindmarsh Square in 2013. Fresh, crunchy herbs and vegetables were paired with juicy meat and piquant chilli in a bread roll. At the time the rolls seemed like a novel take on a Pork Roll, an interesting alternative to crispy pork crackling as a filling, but while certainly no worse, I was undecided whether they were an improvement.
Four years on and that's changed.
Phat Buddha is exactly what the world (and lunch half hour) needs.
In a world where pork rolls are almost as common now as pies and pasties, as a fusion cafe Phat Buddha provides an interesting take on traditional flavours. A breath of fresh air in a now familiar experience of the Pork Roll.
The brick and mortar restaurant (though a charming hut surrounded by tables and chairs that function also as The Jade's beer garden may be a more apt description) is situated at 160 Flinders Street and open for lunch (11am to 3pm on Monday to Friday with dinner hours on Thursday to Saturday. The bread is remarkably crusty and crunchy. The interior is fluffy, airy and light, the perfect vehicle for moreish, flavoursome lemongrass chicken or scotch fillet beef. Rich, powerful sauces are lifted by fresh herbs, chilli and vegetables - sprouts providing a welcome texture.
The menu has expanded to crispy chicken and Angus beef burgers, sweet potato fries, salad bowls and vegan/vegetarian options, but to me the rolls remain irresistible. Parting with $10 will get you quite possibly the most stuffed foot-long bread roll in Adelaide; shaving a few dollars from that (to $7.50) and an equally delicious but more manageable shorter option is available.