December 11, 2023


Free For All Food

Asian and ‘80s: Two of Austin Belt’s favorites arrive with each other in his new, loved ones-run meals truck, Banh Sai

Banh Sai meals truck specializes in banh mi sandwiches, like a Japanese-fashion, spicy fried hen (above), as effectively as pork meatball and Brussels sprouts. (Port City Every day/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON—Bold blues, shiny pinks, electric powered oranges and purples stand out on Austin Belt’s Tokyo lights-influenced style of Banh Sai Asian Fusion food items truck. The eyesight and engage in on phrases signify his most beloved locations of desire: Asian delicacies and ‘80s nostalgia. 

“‘Karate Kid’ is one particular of my leading 10 favourite movies of all time,” Belt mentioned.

A culinary graduate from Central Piedmont Neighborhood Faculty, the 31-calendar year-old and his spouse, Lucy, have moved around around the past 7 a long time, as Belt adopted his passion for cooking. He worked as a sous chef in really a few kitchens, which includes Bradshaw Social Household in Charlotte, Grill 401 in Fort Lauderdale and The Enjoy in Charleston.

“Ask any individual who has worked with me during Sunday brunch: ‘80s audio was always on,” Belt said.

Two decades back, he and his spouse moved to Wilmington to be closer to her mom and dad, and to plant roots skillfully and as a family members. Belt took a job at Kornerstone Bistro, with his eye normally concentrated on inevitably opening a brick-and-mortar. He began conceptualizing what it would be, exploring food he would make, and made the decision to technique his strategy very first as a foodstuff truck.

“Then Covid hit and I figured why not just go for it?” he mentioned

He and his wife invested $70,000 in the small business, which include upstart costs, salary and the invest in of a truck from Rolling Kitchens in Manassas, Virginia. The company strips outdated FedEx and USPS vehicles and customizes them.

“They place a manufacturer new kitchen area in, so a single facet has sinks and regulatory stuff, like a hand-washing station, and then on the other facet I received to choose if I wished an oven, grill, flat best or fryer, and crafted it out myself. It is fairly reasonably priced far too,” Belt discussed.

Mainly because a foodstuff truck has much less overhead and team, Belt reported he felt extra cozy taking likelihood and exploring what works as a initial-time company proprietor. Also, a food items truck would assist build in a foundation audience.

Asian pork meatballs are designed with garlic chili sauce and ginger, lemongrass, parsley, herbs, and soy-sauce-centered seasoning. (Port Metropolis Daily image/Shea Carver)

“I figured if I can get more than enough people in Wilmington fascinated in my food items truck, then by the time I open up a restaurant, I’d have plenty of of a following to hold the doors open,” Belt explained.

Experimenting in the commissary kitchen area at Diamond Food items Organization has led to various usually takes on the banh mi sandwich, Belt’s personal favored. He employs a white Cuban roll from Breadsmith to tuck in 1 of 3 possibilities of fillings and/or protein, including Japanese-design fried rooster, pork meatballs or fried Brussels sprouts.

“I marinate the rooster for two days in soy, garlic, mirin and sake,” he discussed, “and it is breaded in all-purpose flour and cornstarch so it will get a wonderful crisp. The Asian pork meatballs are manufactured with garlic chili sauce and ginger, lemongrass, parsley, herbs, and soy-sauce-primarily based seasoning.”

The Brussels get dropped in a fryer for 20 seconds and arrive out fantastic just about every time in advance of becoming topped with seasoning, in accordance to Belt. Then, the filling is tucked onto a bed of cilantro and pickled veggies, like carrot, cucumber and daikon radish, ahead of currently being topped with new jalapeños and spicy aioli.

Belt also serves noodle bowls, precisely ramen — a brothy, heat soup to soothe the soul for the duration of cooler times of the time. 

“One of my fave cooks is David Chang of Momofuku,” Belt said. “Ramen is incredibly basic nevertheless complicated.”

Every serving is topped with miso, mushrooms, kimchi and environmentally friendly onion, with possibilities to add pork meatballs or a smooth egg.

“On a menu, if you can increase an egg, I’m going for it,” Belt reported, “because egg makes all the things far better.”

Specialty ramen bowls are on the Banh Sai menu, topped with miso, mushrooms, kimchi, inexperienced onion increase-on proteins accessible. (Port City Everyday photograph/Shea Carver)

It turned just one of his favourite toppers on the classic Japanese cabbage pancake, okonomiyaki, at a spot back in Charleston referred to as Xiao Bao Biscuit. He’s been tweaking a recipe to bring to the Banh Sai menu. 

“Usually, it will get Sriracha more than the best or miso aioli, scallions, bonito flakes, and you can add an egg,” he said. “They also have an add-on of pork candy. It is kind of like cotton sweet — it is texture is bizarre, but it’s so excellent. I would enjoy to do that and do some brunch stuff on the truck.”

He’s concentrating on curries this winter — green, crimson and yellow — and also serves Cobra Fries. The latter marries salty, sweet and spicy flavors, thanks to the mix of Sriracha, hoisin, Banh Sai aioli and togarashi.

“Togarashi is by far my favored matter in the environment,” Belt exclaimed. “It’s a Japanese pepper mix or blackening spice, but that explanation does not do it justice. I use it in everything.”

Just a few evenings in the past, he dabbled in Asian-impressed wings with his signature sticky sauce, which went around very well with diners. But he says the real crowd-pleaser has still to appear. It is the one particular product his wife and household constantly question him to make: Pad Thai.

“I’ve been creating it for a 10 years,” Belt explained. “My spouse laughs for the reason that she usually needs me to make it, and I say, ‘I’m worn out of it,’ but then she teases me: ‘Well, you know you’ll be producing a whole lot of it on the truck.’ And I will.”

Belt has been cooking considering that he was 17 years old, and nevertheless he initial went to higher education with the intent of getting a organization big, he uncovered himself again in the kitchen after he completed all of his standard schooling classes. He resolved to finish out schooling in the culinary subject right before functioning his way as a result of many eateries and experimenting with styles aplenty — French, American, Italian, Asian.

Functioning in Charleston below Bob Cook at Edmund’s Oast, his beloved cafe, was a spotlight and mastering practical experience he reported will carry forth with him in reaching his very own vision.

Banh Sai 1

“I was energized to get above there,” Belt claimed. “They operated with a relatives experience in between bartenders, servers, cooks, administrators, proprietors — it seriously felt like a family members. I want to make that.”

Belt says he and his wife make a great workforce, not only working very well alongside one another but balancing each and every other’s expertise. “She allows me occur up with ideas at home, and she is a fantastic front-of-household human being,” Belt said.

They’re functioning on a 5-yr prepare, maybe four, should really all go nicely. Belt would like to open up a Banh Sai whole-scale restaurant. He doesn’t approach on halting there, either. 

“I want to own quite a few varieties of restaurants,” he stated. “The kid in me desires a restaurant with a bowling alley and arcade games, but then I also want to have a sit-down tapas bar.”

For now, he’s just concentrated on receiving his truck parked wherever the regional ‘80s trivia night is occurring. “You can request me any form of ‘80s issues you want,” he claimed with self confidence.

He’s also looking forward to the rescheduled Motley Crüe, Poison Def Leppard and Joan Jett concert that was canceled from Covid-19.  

“You should see the space above my garage: It is all ’80s — the new music, the flicks, PacMan and Golden Tee for Atari … I like that stuff — and Asian cuisine. It’s just enjoyable foods.”

Austin and Lucy Belt opened Banh Sai a quick two months back and previously are obtaining bookings by way of March. (Port Metropolis Day-to-day/Shea Carver)
Austin Belt grills edamame on a flat leading with garlic, seasoning and soy sauce for further taste. (Port Town Everyday/Shea Carver)
Austin Belt worked at Kornerstone Bistro in Wilmington for two years in advance of upstarting his very own food truck, Banh Sai, with hopes of it becoming a brick-and-mortar in at the very least 5 a long time. (Port Metropolis Daily/Shea Carver)
Belt’s Cobra Fries get doused in Sriracha, hoisin, Banh Sai aioli and togarashi, a Japanese pepper blend. (Port Town Everyday/Shea Carver)
Austin and Lucy Belt serve prospects at New Anthem in the South Entrance District on Dec. 11. (Port Metropolis Day-to-day/Shea Carver)
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