Where fusion food is on a roll

Lori Nunes’ food truck serves up an enticing menu that features Asian and Portuguese flavors blended with seasonal ingredients

ktbudge@sbcglobal.netMay 18, 2012 



    Schedule of locations posted weekly on website, and on Facebook and Twitter. (KunFusion will also be participating in the Central Coast Foodie Festival, Ramona Garden Park in Grover Beach, noon to 4 p.m. May 20.)

    Hours: Mid-morning to early afternoon.

    The scene: The truck usually parks outside businesses during weekday lunches, but it’s also available for events and private catering.

    The cuisine: A creative, fresh fusion of Portuguese, Asian and seasonal fare.

    Expect to spend: $10 and under.

Let there be no confusion over KunFusion Kulinary — it’s not your typical food truck. It’s a little bit Asian, a little bit Portuguese, and a little bit of whatever might strike “owner/chef/head philosopher” Lori Nunes’ fancy that day.

Before hitting the road with KunFusion in April 2011, Nunes had some restaurant and food industry experience but realized that she really needed to go to culinary school “to learn the foundations — things like mother sauces and knife skills.”

To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, the exuberant Nunes had to first learn the rules to know how to break them.

Armed with a chassis of culinary technique, she then needed some wheels. Nunes found a used food truck that was “pretty much just being parted out,” and spent more than three months reconditioning it.

Now, the once unremarkable truck sports a stylin’ black/steel color scheme, the KunFusion name and logo of a jovial Buddha wearing a chef’s hat. Also, the truck is affectionately named “ ‘Wok-n-Roll,’ and she’s temperamental as all heck,” said Nunes.

Inside, “Wok-n-Roll” is essentially a kitchen, with a flattop grill, deep fryer, refrigerator, etc. However, as all food truck operations must do, Nunes uses a licensed commercial kitchen for tasks such as receiving orders, food prep, and cleaning the truck at the end of the day.

Given that she has the kitchen, “it would be easy to cook all of the food and just hold it warm on the truck, but I believe that takes away from the food truck experience,” said Nunes. “Anyone can just bake something off and load it up, but I take pride in cooking food to order, even when it takes a few more minutes.”

Though the KunFusion menu continues to evolve with customer demand and seasonal availability, its theme is a playful and bold fusion of Nunes’ Portuguese heritage and the Asian flavors she loves. You can dig into a Korean BBQ steak salad, order up filhoses (traditional Portuguese doughnuts), or get a Katsu chicken salad made with Japanese-style panko-breaded, fried chicken breast.

KunFusion’s signature dishes also include two creative riffs on arepas. Typically, arepas are hearty sandwich rolls that are split open and filled, but Nunes uses the dough to make golf ballsized, deep-fried treats — either savory ones called “Balls of Fire” (filled with habañeros, cheese, carrots and drizzled with chipotle aioli) or sweet versions called “Balls of Love” (filled with hazelnut chocolate and almonds and rolled in cinnamon sugar).

“Fusionistas” — as fans are dubbed — have also given an enthusiastic green light for the “KunFu Bowls” with coconut/limeinfused Jasmine rice. Choices include a “Fala Fu” with Thai chile falafel and vegetables, a “Kluck Fu” with chicken in Thai orange sauce, or a“Cho Fu” with Kobe beef and lentils in an Indian sauce and topped with cheese.

Even though there’s a very strict “no tortilla rule” on the truck, “FuKun Tacos” have crept onto the KunFusion menu. Nunes uses a taco frying basket to make hard shells out of whole wheat lavash bread, and then stuffs them with “Sloppy Cho” seasoned meat, tilapia, or sautéed tempeh.

KunFusion is about fun, but after watching how efficiently the truck’s upbeat team members (Nunes, Tom Ek and Liz Beeman) turn out orders for an anxious crowd, you realize how serious they are about their food and service.

“There’s a lot of high-fiving going on when we’ve had tickets lined up and everything still came out fast and hot,” said Nunes. “It’s a small space back there and it’s kind of like a dance how we move around without knocking each other down!”

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