By Susan T. Hessel —
For those of us who have had our share of cotton candy, hot dog and popcorn trucks, the Apothik Food Truck is a breath of fresh food.
“My passion lies in cooking local and in-season food. Our bodies are made to eat what is around at the time,” said 31-year-old Apothik chef Nathan Wang, whose Scandinavian name is pronounced wong.
Each day during the food truck season from May through November, Apothik offers four to six gourmet entrees and housemade drinks. The menu includes a Tex-Mex item like a taco or burrito, a traditional ramen or Japanese soup, a sandwich and a salad.
“It’s definitely fusion cooking with an emphasis on local ingredients and scratch cooking. I don’t really consider myself to have one style of cooking,” he said. “I like combining ideas from different cultures and different ideas from different chefs. I just like to make good food.”
Wang, who grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota, has loved cooking since he was quite young. “I even took over cooking some of the family’s meals. We had cable and liked watching the cooking and Food Network shows. I really got into that.”
His family had ties to the Cashton area. “I grew up coming to visit Grandpa [Charlie Hehn]. We foraged for local ingredients and hunted mushrooms,” Wang said. “I found a connection with the outdoors and resources I find there.”
Wang, who was home-schooled, took his first year in the culinary arts program at Hennepin Technical College while a senior. After completing his second year and earning an associate degree, he worked as a sous chef at the Eden Prairie Country Club and then at a restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska. In both locations, he was able to be creative and take on additional responsibilities.
After his parents, Steve and Mary Ellen Wang, inherited the family farm from his grandparents, Wang decided to move there. Then he discovered an ad for a chef at the Apothik Food Truck, owned by Maria Norberg. “Maria was searching for someone really passionate about food quality and local sources for food,” he said.
Wang picks up odd jobs during the offseason, although Apothik caters for private parties during those months. He also has taken up blacksmithing, making knives and other items like his great-grandfather once did. “It’s exciting to see Apothik and my blacksmithing grow.”
What does he enjoy most about working the food truck? “Every day is a wild ride. It’s a lot of work and it’s close contact with other people. The reward for me is actually putting out good food. When we see someone take a photo, we know they loved it.”
Apothik Yellow Curry Ramen
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/3 cup peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 shallots (approx. ¼ cup), minced
1 tbsp. sambal
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 quart vegetable stock
3 14-oz. cans coconut milk
3 tsp. yellow curry paste
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. salt (add to taste)
2 tbsp. honey
Udon or ramen noodles
Additional ingredient options*
Warm sesame oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Mince the onion, ginger and shallots (in a food processor, if available) and add to the oil. Sweat the onion mixture for a few minutes until it becomes translucent.
Add sambal and turmeric to the mix and leave over heat for a few more minutes, stirring constantly.
Add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add remaining ingredients except noodles and salt to taste. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Pour curry broth over one serving of precooked udon or ramen noodles and top with *sautéed oyster mushrooms, blanched asparagus, shredded carrots, shredded daikon radish and green onion. Add a soft-boiled egg and nori strips. Garnish with sesame seeds and ground red pepper.
Experiment with other garden vegetables or fresh produce you might have on hand! If you’d like more protein in the dish, grilled chicken and shrimp are both great options. You can also leave out the fish sauce and the egg for a great vegan meal!