You know who Jackie Tran is. If you’ve been following Tucson Foodie for the last few years, you have seen his photos and read his words. If you’re on social media, you’ve watched him cook or venture about the Southern Arizona landscape, investigating some of the top shelf and hidden food treasures Tucson and beyond has to offer.
While he narrates in that baritone cadence of his, you’ve watched Tran eat some of the most amazing and diverse dishes on several online platforms. He’s always done so with a big grin on his face and then finishes with a little dance after he slurps and gulps.
Jackie Tran has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, culinary journalism and cooking-wise, and he is about to add another notch in his fantastic, flavored career calling.
He is now the owner and operator of a food truck business.
It’s cleverly dubbed Tran’s Fats. The mobile eatery will be offering up Asian-inspired treats starting Friday, October 28. The menu itself has yet to be fully finalized but one thing that'll be a for sure staple are the incredible soup dumplings.
Soup dumplings are basically the perfect food if you think about it. Who doesn’t love soup — especially when it's wrapped in a noodle? Tran made the dumplings for himself and his friends and they were an instant hit. Knowing that they would fly out of his truck to hungry and curious patrons, they are, so far, the center point meal deal on the Tran’s Fats menu.
Before we go any further with the food truck, let's get to know Tran a bit more shall we? We shall.
He is a Tucson native that grew up with a Chinese-Vietnamese family in a tight-quartered house. Before going off to kindergarten, Tran only spoke Cantonese and Vietnamese and learned to speak English by watching shows on PBS — mainly cooking shows. Oh, and “The Magic School Bus” too. It was televised chefs that not only provided him with some basic talking points but also began his descent into a passion for all things culinary.
According to Tran, his mother was a pretty good cook, even though she used bouillon cubes in most of her dishes, while his father loved fast food. Because of the public television chefs cooking up regional dishes influenced by recipes across the globe, and in a crowded home where the food is not very interesting, he knew there were bigger and tastier horizons out there.
Thing is, he found himself studying business and went on that trip for quite a spell.
The loom of food hung heavy over Tran’s hungry imagination, making him hungry for real and interesting cuisine. After a short stint in Portland, Oregon and some time in Tucson call centers, he left a solid paycheck behind to go into food journalism.
The rest, shall we say, is Tucson Foodie history.
After substantial searches and solidifying some investors, Tran found the perfect truck and immediately began renovating it to his needs and standards. When that rig arrived in Tucson, all decked out with cute dumplings dancing on the exterior, it was as if the deployed fleet had returned home. This truck is glorious.
Okay, now back to the name, Tran’s Fats.
Previously, he wanted to fry menu items in a variety of fats such as duck fat or avocado oil. He realized supply costs for such succulent, wreckage of palate-warming joy are not up to snuff, not to mention dietary restriction issues as well. So, for now, Tran is going to focus on smaller items to pass through the window and see what works and what needs, well, a little grease. He’ll be offering a few items fried in canola oil so the name works in a boastful abstract sense.
Tran’s Fats is a mobile unit but it seems that he, and it, have found a regular spot to call home. Tran made a deal with the people of Hotel McCoy and he's going to be a staple in their lot on most busy nights.
Tran’s Fats will also be offering a variety of housemade sauces such as rendang curry, lemon garlic tahini, gochujang vinaigrette, spicy Vietnamese caramel, and — because he just has to — MSG-twinged garlic butter.
Desserts are still in the works, too. Although, he alludes to banana spring rolls and will be carrying a variety of vegan pastries from Houlden’s Rise Above. Speaking of which, Tran’s Fats is a vegan-friendly truck with dedicated fryers for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This is a big one, folks. Our beloved Jackie Tran is going to be cooking and serving you some of his favorite food in styles that he himself deems worthy. From the catalog of “fit for a king” cuisine that this guy has consumed, photographed, and written about all these years, it'll surely spark taste bud fires across the expansive Sonoran Desert. But with wheels, he can prove that case otherwise towards further territories.
I know I’m excited. Pretty sure you are, too.
Hotel McCoy is located at 720 W. Silverlake Rd. For more information and to keep up with the latest, visit transfatstucson.com and follow Tran's Fats on Instagram.
Disclaimer: While there is no direct affiliation between Tran's Fat and Tucson Foodie, Tucson Foodie owners have personally invested in Tran's Fat.
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Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...