Osborn Yu said he made one mistake in the design of his family’s food truck: printing the logo on the vehicle’s back door. The door tilts up and faces the sky while Yu and his mother cook inside the truck. The window allows heat and the spicy scent of fresh Korean food to escape the tiny kitchen but prevents students from seeing the name of the business: Kobawoo Express.
Still, the bright red truck is hard to miss.
The authentic Korean food truck is new to Main Campus this semester. While describing his favorite item on the menu, Kimchi Jjim with pork ribs, Yu said he made the truck red for a reason.
“[Kimchi Jjim with pork ribs] is slow cooked for four hours, and it is a stew that’s been reduced, so there’s very few liquid, and the meat just falls right off the bone,” Yu said. “So it’s very rich in flavor, very luxurious and very spicy. That’s the reason why this truck is red. I wanted to make sure people knew that this is spicy food.”
Yu said the truck is able to prepare and serve Kimchi Jjim, a sort of delicacy, because it is an extension of his family’s Korean supermarket and catering company, Ko Ba Woo Oriental Food Market.
Yu’s parents, Angela and Joong, moved from Seoul, South Korea, to America in the 1970s, where they have been running the Ko Ba Woo Oriental Food Market ever since. Yu works at Kobawoo Express with his mother.
“She’s teaching me the ropes,” Yu said.
Yu said the supermarket boasts many advantages for the Kobawoo Express food truck.
“This is what I view as an extension of the catering business. We come from a catering company, so our food is on that level, for that audience,” he said. “We’re not changing the recipes any bit for the Temple students or anyone else. They’re having as authentic Korean food as possible.”
Authentic Korean food, Yu said, has become hard to find.
“There are so many Asian fusion places right now,” Yu said. But there aren’t many authentic Korean places.”
Yu said authentic Korean food has more to offer than fusion choices available at many trucks and local eateries. Kobawoo Express does not use dairy products, Yu said, and offers tofu as a meat substitution for vegans and vegetarians.
“There’s a lot less grease in the food,” Yu said. “It’s a lot healthier. In my opinion, it just tastes better. It’s cleaner.”
Because Kobawoo Express is an extension of his family’s market, Yu said they are able to keep food prices down by cutting out the middleman.
Yu said spicy pork and ramen noodles have been among student favorites so far. He expects students to order ramen noodles more as the temperature cools, along with various seasonal items his family will add to the menu.
Kobawoo Express also offers various specialty food items like seaweed snacks, Aloe Vera drinks and Mochi.
“We try not to bring out anything you can get anywhere else,” Yu said. “If people have a request that they want, they can just ask us and we’ll start bringing out more specialty items that they can only get at an Asian supermarket.”
So far, Yu said he and his family have been enjoying the food truck business.
“We haven’t really advertised, but every week we get a little more and more customers. People are telling their friends. It’s really good and gratifying,” he said.
Yu leaned over to his mother, who spoke to him in Korean while smiling.
“She said she just wants to show the young people, the young college kids here, just how awesome our Korean food is,” Yu said. “But from what I’ve noticed, I think Temple already knows,” he said. “It’s very multi-cultural. 10 years ago, if you asked people, ‘Do you want chopsticks or forks?’ everybody would be like ‘Forks.’ Now, everyone wants chopsticks.”
Claire Sasko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org